Michael Tremblay's The Guid Sisters returns to Scotland
23 years after seminal staging, The Guid Sisters is revived by leading Québécois director Serge Denoncour
In 1989, Michael Boyd (then director of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, now director at the Royal Shakespeare Company) staged his acclaimed British premiere of The Guid Sisters (Les Belles-soeurs) by the great Québécois playwright Michel Tremblay. It has come to be seen as a defining moment in the modern history of Scottish drama.
The play, in which Germaine invites 14 female friends and family round to her modest apartment to help her stick the million trading stamps she has won into books, was translated beautifully by Martin Bowman and the late Bill Findlay. The east-end Montreal vernacular (known as joual, or ‘horse language’) was seamlessly transformed into a Scots, working-class demotic.
Twenty-three years on from that seminal production, Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum and the National Theatre of Scotland are restaging the drama, with a cast led by Kathryn Howden and Karen Dunbar. Excitingly, it will be directed by leading Québécois director Serge Denoncourt, famous for his work with, among others, Tremblay and Cirque du Soleil.
‘All the conditions were right to make this production here in Edinburgh,’ the director tells me. ‘The translation is fantastic; there is a strong connection between Scotland and Québec, which makes Scotland probably the best place in the world, after Montreal, to do the play; and Scotland has wonderful actresses.
‘I have directed this play in French three times,’ he continues, ‘and I refused to direct it in any other language. Then I saw the Scottish translation, and I thought it was brilliant.’
Perhaps the greatest joy for the director, however, was in discovering how easily he could cast the 15-woman play in Scotland. ‘In my experience, Scotland has the best actresses in the world. You can compare it to Québec, which also has very strong actresses. To direct a good production of The Guid Sisters you need a country where the women are strong … It was the easiest casting I have ever done. I met a lot of actresses, and I could have created three casts.’
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Sep–Sat 13 Oct; King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 23–Sat 27 Oct