Denis Marleau

Denis Marleau, director (b at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Qué 14 Oct 1954). Denis Marleau trained as an actor at the Conservatoire d'art dramatique in Montréal, then spent two years in Europe where he did an internship in corporal mime and worked at the Mandragore Theatre.

Marleau, Denis

Denis Marleau, director (b at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Qué 14 Oct 1954). Denis Marleau trained as an actor at the Conservatoire d'art dramatique in Montréal, then spent two years in Europe where he did an internship in corporal mime and worked at the Mandragore Theatre. On his return to Québec, he and several other actors founded the Théâtre de la Nouvelle Lune, where he produced his first shows.

In 1981 he premiered Coeur à gaz et autres textes Dada at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, in the context of the Sonia Delauna retrospective. The show, a collage of texts by Dada artists (Breton, Tzara, Ball), was remounted one year later when Marleau, with Anne-Marie Rocher and Denis Leclerc, founded Le Théâtre Ubu. Marleau functioned as the company's artistic head and its resident stage director.

Marleau's approach is distinguished primarily by his vocation as a playwright. During the 1980s, he staged works from the European avant-garde and adopted one of their creative processes: collage production. He developed an acting method based on vocal work wherein actors de-emphasize textuality, and focus on resonance and actual sound. Merz Opéra (1987), Oulipo Show (1988) and Les Ubs (1991) reveal a director with a unique theatrical vision, especially in Québec, where traditionalism and realism dominate.

Beginning in the 1990s, Marleau abandoned avant-garde repertoire, staged entire plays and produced several adaptations of texts not conceived for the stage. Nevertheless, he continued to look toward literary works that were demanding and little known by Québec audiences. He staged Koltès (Roberto Zucco, 1993), Bernhard (Maîtres anciens, 1996), plays by Normand Chaurette (Le passage de l'Indiana, 1996; Le petit Köchel, 2000; Les reines, 2005), and rediscovered the symbolist works of Maurice Maeterlinck. During this second creative phase, Marleau encouraged collaboration with artists of other disciplines, notably sculptor Michel Goulet, who produced the stage designs for several shows. Marleau inserted video projections into his productions and questioned the notion of the actor's presence (Les trois derniers jours by Fernando Pessoa, adapted from Antonio Tabbucchi, 1997; Les aveugles by Maeterlinck, 2001).

For over 20 years, Denis Marleau's performances have offered a reflection on language, revealing the richness and complexity of dense poetic texts. This theatre of text, based on precise and strict utterances by the actors, is accompanied by formal exploration supported by dialogue between the arts onstage where dance, visual and video arts are combined. Since Merz Opéra, many of the company's performances have toured worldwide. The most resounding success was with Les Aveugles, a play premiered in 2001 in Montréal, and since presented at major international festivals.

Critics and audiences have followed this director since his debut, as witnessed by the numerous prizes and awards he has received, among them an honorary doctorate from l'Université Lumière Lyon 2 (2003), the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD (1998) for stage arts, and several Prix de l'Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre.

One of the most important stage directors on the Québécois theatre scene, he has produced some 40 performances since 1982, earning national and international recognition. Since December 2000, he has also been the artistic director of French theatre at the NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE in Ottawa.