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First Snow/Première neige

CanadaHub @ King’s Hall
Four stars

The fallout of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum has yet to fully make its mark. This is evident from this Scots-Quebecois collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and two Montreal-based companies, Theatre Pap and Productions Hotel-Motel. Four years in the making, and with Scottish writers Davey Anderson and Linda McLean working with Québécois writer Philippe Ducros and director Patrice Dubois, the play looks both to 2014 and to the similarly emotive Québécois vote of 1995 as its starting points. The result is an extended meditation on the personal and the political, and how one impacts on the other.

The scene is a domestic one, where powerful matriarch Isabelle is overseeing a gathering of her extended family, made up of her daughters and the migrant boyfriend of one, her adopted son and lifelong friends both dependent and estranged.

What follows in Dubois’ wide-open production of a play that never loses sight of its own artifice is a contemplation of social structures and all the everyday conflicts that go with them. If at times the discussions recall earnest bedsit 1970s radicalism, a rousing chorus of Yellow Submarine sung in French soon puts paid to all that.

If some of the exchanges sound forced, they’re probably as authentic as the endless pub arguments that emerged from all sides of the debate both before and after 2014, with the play the bewildered long-term hangover of such exchanges. Either way, this collective creative effort evolves, not into navel-gazing dogma, but a litany of faith and all the doubt that goes with such leaps. Whether that faith is in yourself and your loved ones, or else in a higher form of self-determination, the future that results, Isabelle recognises, will always be as uncertain as everything that went before.

The Herald, August 11th 2018

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