Normand Chaurette

Normand Chaurette, dramatist (b 9 July 1954 at Montréal). After postgraduate studies he taught linguistics at the collegiate level while writing drama criticism and scripts for radio. Since 1988 he has devoted himself exclusively to dramaturgy.

Chaurette, Normand

Normand Chaurette, dramatist (b 9 July 1954 at Montréal). After postgraduate studies he taught linguistics at the collegiate level while writing drama criticism and scripts for radio. Since 1988 he has devoted himself exclusively to dramaturgy.

His first play, completed when he was 19, is Rêve d'une nuit d'hôpital (1980). Set in a psychiatric ward, it evokes the life and poetry of Québec's tragic genius, Émile NELLIGAN, permanently institutionalized in 1899 when he too was 19 years old. In a text that defies chronology, the protagonist reconstitutes his own fragmented past, interspersing his musings with excerpts from the haunting poems that are a part of Nelligan's undying legacy.

Provincetown Playhouse, juillet 1919, j'avais 19 ans (1982) is his most memorable work to date, a brilliant, enigmatic play that has continued to fascinate and bewilder audiences. An arcane numerology is even more visible here than in his first play: in 19 scenes the 3 male characters - all 19 years of age - relive the fateful events of 19 July 1919, when a child hidden in a sack that was to contain only a dummy was murdered (stabbed 19 times) onstage by the 3 youths, in what was to be the climax of the first performance of the play they had been rehearsing. The events are presented - staged - in the mind of the only survivor (2 were convicted and executed), author of the original text and ostensibly responsible for the murder as well, now 38 years old and a permanent inmate in an insane asylum. Thus the margins between reason and insanity and between reality and theatrical illusion are constantly infringed, with implications for the spectator/reader that are at the same time illuminating and disturbing, yet compelling. Provincetown Playhouse continues to be performed frequently in French and in English, in Canada and abroad.

Chaurette's subsequent work has continued to impress with its vigour and originality, even as it becomes more arcane in its literary and artistic focus. Fragments d'une lettre d'adieu lus par des géologues (1986) deals with the mystery surrounding the death of an engineer in Cambodia. Les Reines (1992), set in London in 1483, expands the dramatic universe of Shakespeare's Richard III, exploring the effects of violent, patriarchal ambition on female survivors and victims in competing royal families. Je vous écris du Caire (1994) focuses on the composer Verdi and the politics and petty scheming of the world of opera. Le passage de l'Indiana, centred upon an apparent problem of literary plagiarism, was the toast of France's prestigious Avignon Theatre Festival in 1996. Stabat Mater II, a black-humoured verbal symphony for 15 female voices that explores the resonances arising from confrontation with death, staged by the THÉÂTRE DU NOUVEAU MONDE in late 1999, has puzzled but impressed critics and audiences. Le Petit Köchel (staged in Montreal and Avignon in 2000) won the Governor-General's award for francophone theatre in November 2001.

Chaurette's name is often linked to that of René-Daniel DUBOIS (who directed the staging of Provincetown Playhouse in Paris in 1982), both of whom represent a distinct departure from the introverted Québec dramaturgy of the 1960s and 1970s.