Winter Solstice — A Caustic Dramatic Comedy
Toronto — Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) will present from February 4 to 12, Solstice d’hiver (Winter Solstice) by Roland Schimmelpfennig, one of Europe’s most performed and best known contemporary playwrights. This production created in collaboration with Le Groupe de la Veillée will mark the first TfT production to be performed at the Berkeley Street Theatre since February 2020.
After four years of artistic dialogue, director Joël Beddows, TfT’s previous Artistic Director, and Carmen Jolin, La Veillée’s co-General Manager, wanted to bring to life their project of building bridges between Canada’s two cultural capitals, Toronto and Montreal, with this contemporary masterpiece.
The Play: It’s Christmas Eve. A bourgeois apartment. Inside, Bettina is annoyed: her mother has invited a stranger she met on the train. An odd music aficionado with impeccable manners from a bygone era who proves to be both fascinating and astonishing, yet arouses suspicions, visions and panic.
Published in 2007, before the emergence of today’s known right-wing leaders, Solstice d’hiver lays bare the imminent dangers of the rise of extremism.
This caustic comedy is a biting critique of a Western World preoccupied more with its comforts than with ensuring its survival. The obliviousness of its characters reflects a society that has allowed itself to be seduced by a numbing status quo.
The work captivates by its form and its content. The writing borrows from film with its recurring leaps in time. It is precisely this dizzying narrative structure, as well as the themes it carries, that inspired Joël Beddows to stage this script, which lies at the intersection of theatre, essay, novel and cinema. “This project allows me to channel my own rage against present political apathy or the absence of nuanced political thought,” he explains.
At the time of writing, the health crisis had forced Théâtre Prospero to cancel the first two weeks of its Montreal run, which were scheduled to take place between January 11 and 22 inclusive. However, TfT and La Veillée are still hopeful that the performances from January 25 to 29 will be maintained.
This series of performances, first in Montreal then in Toronto, reflects the wish of both TfT and Groupe de la Veillée to develop and stimulate exchanges as well as promote talent onto the national stage. The team of performers and designers brings together artists from both cities.
Joël Beddows – Director
As a director and dramaturg, Joël Beddows has been crafting artistic experiences that blend symbolism, poetry and social commentary for over two decades. Whether working on new creations, the repertory or theatre for young audiences (TYA), he calls into question the points of reference and clichés of contemporary existence, real and aesthetic alike. Over the course of his tenure as artistic director of Théâtre la Catapulte (1998–2010), he established himself as a unique voice in theatrical creation. In 2007, he began directing for French and English-language theatre companies throughout Canada and abroad. As artistic director of the Théâtre français de Toronto from 2016 to 2021, he devoted himself to exploring the works of Molière, Corneille and Marivaux while broadening the company’s programming to include international touring as well as contemporary works written by women and BIPOC playwrights. Beddows is also a founding member of Transfrontaliers, an organization promoting international exchanges among French-language theatres, bridging the North-South divide. In 2018, he directed Michel Ouellette’s Le Dire de Di presented at Théâtre Prospero. He is a professor in the new acting conservatory program at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre, for which he was one of the primary architects, and served as department chairperson from 2011 to 2016.
Roland Schimmelpfennig – Playwright
Born in 1967 in Göttingen, Germany, Roland Schimmelpfennig first worked as a journalist in Istanbul before studying stage directing at the Otto Falckenberg School in Munich in 1990. Upon completing his studies, he was engaged as assistant director and subsequently as artistic director at the Munich Kammerspiele. His early plays garnered numerous awards for drama, among them the Else Lasker-Schüler Dramatist Prize for Fish for Fish (Fisch um Fisch) in 1997, the Nestroy Theatre Prize for Best Young Talent for Push Up in 2002 and for Best Play for Visiting the Father (Besuch bei dem Vater) in 2009. The Golden Dragon (Der goldene Drache) was named Play of the Year in 2010 by Theater Heute magazine. Schimmelpfennig has worked as a dramaturge and artistic consultant at Berlin’s Schaubühne under director Thomas Ostermeier. He is one of the most performed contemporary playwrights in Europe and one of the most prolific. His works for theatre and radio have been presented to great success in more than 40 countries around the world, from Vienna’s Burgtheater to Tokyo’s National Theatre.
Théâtre Prospero has presented other works by Schimmelpfennig, including La femme d’avant, directed by Theodor Cristian Popescu in 2008, Le dragon d’or, directed by Mireille Camier in 2014, and Temps universel +1, a dramatic reading by Christian Lapointe in 2016.
Translation Camille Luscher and Claire Stavaux | Direction Joël Beddows | Dramaturgy Joël Beddows and William Durbau | With Catherine De Léan, Benoît Mauffette, Louise Naubert, Gregory Hlady and Marcelo Arroyo | Set Design and Props Cédric Delorme-Bouchard | Lights Chantal Labonté | Costumes Béatriz Arevalo | Sound Design Nicolas Di Gaetano | Projections Guillaume Saindon | Assistant to the Director Alexandra Ghezzi.
IN TORONTO / FEBRUARY 4 TO 12, 2022
Friday February 4 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturdays, February 5 and 12 at 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 6 at 1:00 pm
Wednesday, February 9, Thursday, February 10, and Friday, February 11 at 8:00 pm