The Guid Sisters

Joie de Vivre

A review of The Guid Sisters
Hannah Gordon

Baz Luhrmann does Romeo and Juliet with Hawaiian shirts, guns and cigarettes and we sit up a little straighter. Oleg Shuplyak's optical illusions are painted on the footpath and suddenly everyone’s throwing money in the hat. Because Italian Opera for the social elite is all well and good, but colloquial performance art everyone can sink their teeth into, is 21st Century smart theatre. Which is where Bill Findlay and Martin Bowman’s translation of Michael Tremblay’s Les Belles-Soeurs comes in.

Set in the 60s, the play sees Germaine Lauzon, her family, friends and neighbours begin an evening of validating her competition prize of one million stamps to spend in her favourite home magazine, by sticking them into the booklets she needs to fill in order to use them. It follows these fifteen women as they divulge, exaggerate, deceive, and laugh, flowing easily between the harshest Glaswegian dialect to poignant musical harmonies and poetic monologues.

With an opening set worthy of Shuplyak in its optical perplexity and genius, Francis O’Connor’s design reveals the everyman’s working class tenement kitchen which widens to accommodate the arrival of each new guest. Kathryn Howden (Germaine) leads a dynamic cast as she hits the ground running in tempo and vigour. This exquisite translation lifts both cast and audience beyond any possible preconceptions; pulling us into their story of friendship, love and betrayal against a backdrop of women leading ordinary lives. Though in places under-rehearsed, this powerful production maintains that je ne sais quoi it no doubt exhaled in Montreal almost 50 years previously.