A wind of political thought is blowing over Quebec and theatre is not left behind. Chapters of the Fall – The Saga of Lehman Brothers, presented at the Théâtre Périscope in Quebec City in September, comes to the Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal from Oct. 16 to Nov. 3.
The desire to mark the 10th anniversary of the collapse in September 2008 of the Lehman Brothers empire – the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States – is evident in the media. Olivier Kemeid of Quat’Sous has wanted to program this piece since his arrival as artistic director. The modern epic by Stefano Massini benefits from the involvement of Catherine Vidal and Marc Beaupré. It’s a first staged collaboration for these artists, who will direct a play by the Italian author for the first time.
“I had some reservations at first,” Vidal says. “This project came right after my work on The Idiot at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, a big four-hour boat. Marc is more techno and exuberant in the staging, but it’s going well. We have already worked together as actors in a show for teens and we also have a certain kinship in our way of directing the actors.
Chapters of the Fall is an epic fresco that tells the birth and evolution of the Lehman empire, from father to son. “We wanted to do this because it is a subject that concerns us all, to demonstrate that the desire to survive is in each of us,” said her sidekick Beaupré.
Massini’s play is the third show that looks at the subject, but unlike L’art de la chute (winner of the 2017 Quebec Critics’ Prize), in which finance interferes with the contemporary art market and financial technical details are prominent, Chapters of the Fall is presented in the manner of a tale in which actors are both narrators and characters.
Interestingly, the directors were not inhibited by skin colour or sex in casting roles. “This will be our message on the parity and inclusion of visible minorities on stage: two of the three Lehmans will be performed by women,” Beaupré explains.
“Any choice is political,” Vidal adds. “We had the desire to represent society as a whole on stage and to show how everyone experienced the consequences of the financial crisis of 2008.
“It is an fine dramaturgical motive to have as many men as women and that the actors are of diverse origins. Even if this is a repertoire that adheres more to Marc’s style, the formal structure is very familiar to me.
“We push the narrative levels even further. It is very verbose. Everything arrives through the words.”
The duo has avoided using excessive techniques on stage for fear of losing the viewer. But the sound environment has a cinematic style that defines the setting and atmosphere.
A monster to feed
Chapters of the Fall – The Saga of Lehman Brothers covers the birth of capitalism by retracing the story of the Lehman brothers, who arrived in America in 1844, progressing from one investment to another (cotton, coffee, railroads) until they founded an investment bank in their name.
The financial empire collapses in 2008, putting millions of American families on the street and precipitating a global crisis comparable to that of 1929. As a monster to feed, Lehmann Brothers grows with each step, inexorably towards a precipitous fall.
Lehmann Brothers are the new Frankenstein. The cotton trade is growing and requires management. Branches of their company appear in New York. The creators are overwhelmed by the creature they created.
Despite all the pitfalls that the Lehman brothers have to face, they get up and continue to progress, despite the crash of 1929. Power will be handed down from generation to generation, giving the play Shakespearian accents.
“The play is to high finance what The Godfather is to the mafia in American film culture. In The Godfather we put the family at the forefront, which humanizes the mafia. In Chapters of the Fall, we humanize the Lehmans,” the director says.
Chapters of the Fall – The Saga of Lehman Brothers runs at Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal from Oct. 16 to Nov. 3.