Interview with Anne-Marie Olivier

A leading figure in Quebec theatre, Anne-Marie Olivier was, in her own words, struck by the true story of Maurice Dancause, a brilliant economist who suffered a stroke at the age of 33. In Maurice, she slips into the shoes of this character with an incandescent mind and overflowing words, to retrace his journey and his battle against aphasia.

Produced by Théâtre Bienvenue aux dames! and winner of the Prix de la critique 2023 for Best Performance (Quebec), and the Prix Paul-Hébert 2023, the show runs from April 17 to 20 at Studio 16. Anne-Marie Olivier spoke to us a few days before the show.

You met Maurice Dancause by chance at a party on his sixtieth birthday. That meeting was followed by a series of interviews tracing back his journey since his stroke, at 33. Why did you choose to bring his story to the stage?

Quite simply because I couldn’t believe it, the next day, the day after that, the week after that. For me, it’s an undeniable sign that I needed to do something, a show, with this. I was stunned and overwhelmed by this encounter. It was like experiencing a great shock or epiphany.


How did you slip into Maurice’s shoes?

We’ve been lucky enough to work with him a lot, to film and record him, and before each show, or on the day itself, I listen to a little bit of him. I try to pick up on his gestures and prosody, to stick as closely as possible to him, so to speak. Acting is always a path to truth, which can and should be refined ad infinitum. I have this extraordinary opportunity to play someone who is alive and willing. I try to be to the best of my ability, at his level.


Part of the play is written, part is improvised, with the audience accompanying Maurice through his story. Why did you choose to interact with a member of the audience? What’s it like to perform a play with an improvisational element several nights in a row?

You break down the fourth wall. There’s something exciting about that. But I can’t hide the fact that I’m on edge [Laughs]. It’s a tightrope, but also a party. Theatre is a living art form, and when you do that, you open up to the audience, and what often happens is that the performance becomes alive and electric. It’s a risk, but more often than not, the risk is so beautiful. It becomes a form of communion with someone, and with the whole audience too. In a way, I recreate my encounter with him. Maurice needs others, in life but also to communicate. So there you have it. Just thinking about it makes me nervous! [Laughs]

Is there a spectator-turned-interviewer who has made a particular impression on you?

When I think about it, I see a lot of faces of people who came to play with me, and I feel gratitude and love. It’s a bit cheesy, but I love cheese.

What would you say to Vancouver audiences to encourage them to see the play?

This show is human, this show is a party. The form is simple and accessible, but you’ve probably never seen or experienced anything like it. I think you come away with a little something inside you that’s been transformed or enlightened.


Maurice will run from April 17 to 20, at 7:30pm, in Studio 16. Performances are surtitled in English, with the exception of Friday, April 19. This performance will be followed by a meet-the-artists talkback, hosted by Marie Villeneuve from Radio-Canada.

Information and tickets on the show page.

Interested in discovering theatrical and artistic techniques, without being a professional? Anne-Marie Olivier will lead an all-ages artistic workshop to help you develop a story and bring real-life moments to the stage to make powerful theatre. This workshop, given in French, will take place on Saturday, April 20 at Carousel Theatre, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Click here for more information and to access registration.


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