The maniac who floods the line of S. O. S. Détresse Amitié with profanity, Thérèse’s filthy knitting, the filthy doubichous “rolled under the armpits”… Anyone who has seen this classic of French theater and cinema from the 80s has kept lasting memories of the Santa Claus is garbage.
Even if the sauce in which it is prepared is at times a little heavy to digest, the Quebec adaptation presented this summer on the stage of the Maison des arts Desjardins in Drummondville has something to satisfy connoisseurs, but also those who taste themselves for the first time to this absurd and crazy comedy.
Let’s set the scene. On Christmas Eve 1984, the volunteers of S.O.S. Détresse Amitié kept watch to answer telephone calls from the depressed, the lonely and the suicidal of all kinds. But what promised to be a peaceful evening quickly turns into a nightmare for Pierre (Jean-Michel Anctil) and his colleague Thérèse (formidable Josée Deschênes).
Interpreted with a madness that does not slow down by a very fit Brigitte Lafleur (and unrecognizable under her make-up), Josette is the first to disturb this tranquility when she arrives in the room with her questionable hygiene, her severe hissing and her problems. of seedy couple.
Will follow Katia, a lovesick transvestite (Pierre-François Legendre), Mr. Preskovitch, the Bulgarian neighbor who insists on having his pastries tasted around (Claude Prégent, delicious!) and, of course, a Santa Claus to give away nightmares to children (Mario Jean).
Even if certain dialogues adapted in Quebec are heavy with not very subtle innuendos and that the game of some verses in the vaudeville, the interpreters carry this sporting score with aplomb. In the staging, André Robitaille chose to highlight the gags with larger strokes than what Thierry Lhermitte, Christian Clavier, Anne-Marie Chazel and other members of the Splendid troupe (who wrote this jewel) used to do.
A defensible choice. We certainly lose a little in subtlety, but no one in the room is dropped by the quirky humor of the original work.
In a festive atmosphere planted as soon as the curtain rises – with a small dance segment that reminds us that everything happens on a New Year’s Eve – the piece unfolds at high speed, between cult lines and musical interludes. Moreover, the director had fun slipping here and there a few Quebec tunes that flooded the radios in 1984, adding to the happiness of the spectators (who did not hesitate to sing in chorus J’t’aime comme un fou de Charlebois or to clap your hands to an incomprehensible Bulgarian song).
One of the most beautiful finds of this vitaminized staging is the use of a multi-instrumentalist (Stéphanie Raymond) who comes to give a boost to the whole by playing sometimes the trumpet, sometimes the bell. Each of his appearances is a sign of the arrival of a candy moment!
Another stroke of genius: asking the inimitable Guy Nadon to interpret the sex maniac of the telephone. We never see him, but his interpretation of the ribald song La p’tite frog (among others) is a pure delight!
Note that in his pre-recorded opening message, André Robitaille takes the time to put this piece into context by recalling that since 1984, society has evolved. It may seem superfluous, but in the current context, it was probably a good idea. A play where suicide, transsexuals and immigrants are laughed at might shock some minds. But this well-simmered production rather manages to provoke frank laughter.
This is undoubtedly the magic that has made this scum of Santa Claus timeless…