Interview with David Paquet

“Le Soulier, is the story of a few people who are helping each other endure life’s hardships”

From February 27th to March 9th, Théâtre la Seizième will present its newest production, Le Soulier, created under the Dramaturgical development program.  Written by the recipient of many awards, David Paquet, and directed by Esther Duquette and Gilles Poulin-Denis, Le Soulier brings us into a decidedly baroque universe with a hint of magical realism. We met with the author, David Paquet.

David Paquet, you are now a well-known author recognized throughout La Francophonie. Your plays are presented across Europe and North America; your texts are regularly published; you’ve received many awards. Please tell us your story…

I have been living in Montréal for a little over 20 years now. Before that, I was in the rural village of l’Ange-Gardien which I left to study in Montréal. I studied cinematographic screenwriting, literature, and sexology. I was a facilitator, for young children first, then with people at the end of their life. This was my way of exploring the different faces of human life which I have always been curious about. In 2003, I was admitted to the National Theatre School, within the playwriting training program. And since 2007, I have been a full-time theater writer.

Where does this passion for words come from?

As a child and teenager, I concealed many things I thought too shameful to even mention; they finally found their way out through writing. Though I could not tell others, I found solace in writing, it was my safety net. As a child, my life was governed by school, by my parents, by different restrictions. When I was writing, I was living in a world where everything was possible, in a world where I was sole ruler. I was free; I could do as I pleased. In a way, I may be writing because I am dissatisfied with reality. I am not saying that theater writing can change the world but rather that the safe haven of literary fiction helps us consider the world from a different angle.

Please tell us how Le Soulier was born…

Le Soulier is the story of an encounter, the one I had close to seven years ago with Théâtre la Seizième during the creation of Porc-Epic.  Over the years and projects, we have developed stronger links; when la Seizième commissioned this play in 2016, I was more than happy to oblige. As a Montréal artist, it is sometimes easy to forget la Francophonie beyond Québec. Yet, there are talented, creative, passionate people creating in French whenever they can everywhere in Canada. This partnership with la Seizième is my way of honouring these people, of thinking ‘outside’ Montréal, and of creating stronger links with the whole francophone artistic community.

How did you come up with this play?

The plays I write are often born from raw, powerful images spurring my wild imagination. I always follow my intuition. For Le Soulier, the original image was that of a dentist pulling a hammer out of a child’s mouth. I started building around this highly symbolic image and over time other characters were born. I quickly understood this play would be about psychological distress but also, and maybe even above all else, that it would enable me to honour every person who helps more vulnerable people, who takes the time to accompany those for whom simple things are not so simple.

Could you summarize Le Soulier in one sentence?

Le Soulier is the story of a few people who are helping each other endure life’s hardships. Through a system of supportive relationships, these people, despite their awkwardness and neuroses, enable each other to rise, or at least they prevent each other from sinking deeper.

Le Soulier is a drama about mental health issues, but it is also really funny, isn’t it?

I call it a bipolar comedy. It deals with serious matters using humour. As André Brassard once said, I think humour is a lubricant: it allows what is difficult to enter one’s conscience. In this play, we witness people suffering, but with a degree of detachment. For me, it is like emotional acrobatics. I try to follow the fine line where everything is both funny but grim and also grim but funny. This play is actually a comedy, but one where one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There are very serious and not so serious moments. There are many tipping points which help create an unpredictable play.

Do you have a message to the audience?

This is not a message; rather I’m inviting the audience to a massage. I like to compare theme park ride designers with theater writers. They both design thrill rides for strangers whom they invite to sit in. At the theater, the true voyage is within. The massage to which I’m inviting people is to simply sit and be lulled by this unlikely journey. In the end, to discover what they learned from all of it.

Now, if I actually have to answer the message question, I think there are some cases of psychological suffering where love is not strong enough to heal others. When we love someone, we would like to believe it is enough to protect from all malaise. In fact, it is not the case. If our being present cannot heal all evils, it certainly can alleviate some of them. In this play, I show people who support each other. I wish to pay tribute to all these persons who help others, on a daily basis.

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