Western Gold Theatre
The Ballad of Georges Boivin by Martin Bellemare, translated by Jack Paterson with Johanna Nutter

When & Where November 10 – 28, 2021, Wed to Sat at 7:30pm, Tues , Wed , Sat and Sun at 2pm from Nov. 14. | PAL Studio Theatre, 581 Cardero St.

Director Jack Paterson Dramaturg Johanna Nutter Set Design Glenn MacDonald Lighting Design John Webber Costume Design AlaiaHamer Sound Design Stephen Bulat Stage Manager Ingrid Turk

Reviewer John Jane

The Ballad of Georges Boivin is Jack Paterson’s translation of Martin Bellemare’s award winning Francophone play Le Chant de Georges Boivin. The play is essentially about four senior citizens undertaking a 4,500 kilometre Trans-Canada road trip in a Toyota Corolla with only one driver.

Despite the play involving four central characters, the production is set up as a solo performance, with John Innes and Jay Brazeau alternating in the role of Georges, who delivers the narrative in the first person. Paterson’s translation of the play for the English language theatre works very well, but he has to thank veteran stage actor John Innes (and probably Jay Brazeau, whose performance I have yet to see) for a nuanced portrayal of Georges, a man roughly his own age who has recently lost Germaine, his wife and soul mate of five decades. Innes, a unilingual actor certainly manages to convey the essence of a francophone articulating his story in English not only through his own character but also the quirks of his travelling companions: Clément, Gérard and Jean-Pierre. Innes differentiates the three friends through voice changes and subtle gestures.

So, what would urge a foursome whose average age is around mid-eighty to take off across the country without any certainty of making it to their destination? Georges’ purpose is to get to Vancouver to find his first love Juliette, who left Montreal a lifetime ago, and whose address on a fifty-year-old letter is all that he has to go on.

Innes’ narrative switches between the car trip in the present and Georges reminiscences about his life with both Juliette and Germaine. His hope of finding Juliette does not come with the intention of filling the void left by his late wife. He needs to know there is someone still alive who harbours a fondness for him.

Glenn MacDonald’s simple set consists of only four chairs set in quad format to simulate the seating assembly of a passenger vehicle and yellow road markings on the stage floor. There are still projections of Canada’s topography on a backdrop wall that change with Georges’ progress across the Trans-Canada highway.

The Ballad of Georges Boivin is a heart-warming play that shakes off the myth often associated with old age.

© 2021 John Jane