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White Rock drama symbolizes Quebec’s isolation

‘Albertine’ tells the story of a woman from her 30s to her 70s
Cast members of Michel Tremblay’s Albertine in Five Times in rehearsal at Peninsula Productions’ studio theatre. The staged reading runs April 5-April 8. (Contributed photo) Cast members of Albertine in Five Times in rehearsal at Peninsula Productions’ studio theatre. The staged reading runs April 5-April 8. (Contributed photo)

The Canadian Playwright’s Guild may define Michel Tremblay’s award-winning Albertine In Five Times as a “moving portrait of the extraordinary life of an ‘ordinary’ woman.’

But for Peninsula Productions artistic director Mahara Sinclaire – who is bringing a staged reading of the play to the company’s black box studio theatre in Centennial Park, April 4 and 5 (at 7 p.m.) and April 6 and 7 (at 2 p.m.) – there are deeper levels of symbolism to be explored.

On a surface level, the drama is a compelling study of one character, Quebec resident Albertine, at five distinct stages in her life.

Embodying these five different Albertines in Sinclaire’s version will be a cast of outstanding actors – several well-known to Peninsula audiences – including Ally Rafter (Albertine at age 30); Justine Jones (40); Terry Ford (50); Susan McRae (60) and Jan Chadburn (70), with Lisa Greene in the role of her sister, Madeleine.

“Yes, it’s the extraordinary life of an extraordinary woman, but so much more,” Sinclaire said.

“My approach will be the one intended by the playwright – a commentary on the politics in Quebec through the decades from 1942, to 1952, 1962, 1972, and finally 1982,” she added.

Albertine In Five Times communicates what it means, intellectually and emotionally, to be a minority in a country of minorities,” she said.

“(It talks about) what it feels like to be prey to a host of conflicting emotions concerning one’s most intimate identity as defined by and in one’s language, one’s family relationships and one’s own personal memories.”

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At the heart of the fascinating symbolism of Albertine In Five Times are the profound cultural changes that Quebec experienced in a span of forty years, Sinclaire said.

Albertine at 30 and Albertine at 40 are an expression of the leadership of Premier Maurice Duplessis (‘The Boss’) in the Second World War and immediate post-war eras, she said.

“There’s a sense of trapped claustrophobia and a yearning for pre-industrial self-determination of the pioneer days – exacerbated by fear of the invisible governing powers, and of the judgements of community and church.”

By contrast, Albertine at 50, at the beginning of the 1960s, represents the ‘Quiet Revolution’ of Liberal Jean Lesage.

She feels a newfound need to be in control of her destiny, Sinclaire said, but the individualism of youth culture and ‘fast food’ consumerism puts her at odds with the traditional family-centric culture personified by Madeleine.

Albertine’s 60 year-old self represents Quebec’s emotional backlash to the birth of the Parti Quebecois, the growth of the Front Liberation de Quebec, the October Crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act; Sinclaire said – a “feeling of having failed, of having been ripped off at some point, betrayed by one’s own.

“She has withdrawn, filled with self-disgust, from public affairs.”

Albertine at 70, however, exhibits “a new sense of self-determination, and the self-respect generated by an education curriculum that emphasized Quebec’s distinctive cultural heritage and history.”

Even then, Sinclaire reflects, conflict and a sense of isolation remain.

”Albertine/Quebec’s inability to nurture and educate her own, her misplaced anger towards her cultural roots, her agoraphobic relation to the world and her fear of reaching out to others, are things that no newfound faith or acceptance can allay.”

Played in one act, Albertine In Five Times will run approximately 90 minutes.

Peninsula Productions studio theatre is at 14600 North Bluff Rd. (adjacent to the Centennial Park arena).

For tickets ($32.09), visit or

About the Author: Alex Browne

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