Michel Tremblay is a French Canadian playwright who was an Angry Young Man in the 60s and shook the stuffy Anglophone artistic establishment by introducing Quebequois working class characters and themes along with their local patois, jouai. Since he writes in French, the quality of translation is important. His best known play, Les Belles-Soeurs, interestingly, was done in Scots a few years ago as The Guid-Sisters - I can see how that would work as a parallel universe.
Marcel Pursued By Dogs is a distant reworking of classical legend. The three Fates - in this production elegant young women in Empire dresses clutching rag dolls - are waiting for Marcel, a teenager who is having a nervous breakdown and desperately needs their help. The dogs (a French Canadian nickname for the police) are after him; he has witnessed the murder of Mercedes, on whom he has a crush, but who is the mistress of his sister’s husband, Maurice. There is no resolution, as the play ends with Marcel resting in the arms of the Fates, while his sister sports the black eye that they predicted her husband would give him.
It is extremely difficult to find a style for Tremblay, who is a kind of low-rent Tennessee Williams. He needs poetry, intensity, and self-assurance. Each character is in a self-contained world. This production suffers from a rather clunky translation, and over-literal direction which treats it as a naturalistic ‘well-made play’. It is, however, beautifully designed, and anyone interested in unusual North American repertoire should seek it out.