Montreal artists bring Shakespeare's greatest hits to the alleys of Saint-Henri

As part of the first ever Shakespeare in the Ruelles, actors perform deconstructed excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth and more.

Shakespeare in the Ruelles is a 3-day event in which actors perform monologues and scenes outdoors

Two actors portraying Romeo and Juliet act out a scene in an alley in Saint-Henri as part of Shakespeare in the Ruelles. (CBC)

Three-hundred-and-sixty-two days a year, it's just another Saint-Henri alleyway.

But tonight, it's a stage where thespians gather to enact ancient grudges "where civil blood makes civil hands unclean," and curse their enemies as a "poisonous bunch-backed toad."

As part of the first ever Shakespeare in the Ruelles event, actors are performing deconstructed excerpts and monologues inspired by Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth and more.

The stage is set against the backdrop of two Saint-Henri alleyways (ruelles), and while the audience takes a walk through the narrow, tree-lined streets of the southwest Montreal neighbourhood, they discover a cast of characters performing in both English and French.

​Michelle Cajolet-Couture and Matt Enos are the actors behind the project. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

The three-day event is the brainchild of ​​Michelle Cajolet-Couture and Matt Enos.

Cajolet-Couture is a French actor who dances and performs clowning, while Enos is an English musician and actor who teaches in Dawson College's theatre program.

The two were originally inspired by Montreal's Shakespeare-in-the-Park — where plays are put on in parks across the city, dating back to 1988.

But their collaborative creation is something far different from the classic Shakespeare performances that audiences have come to expect.

"We really like the idea of performing outdoors," said Enos. "We wanted to bring a concept that was a little more intimate."

The alleys of Saint-Henri make up the set and backdrop of each scene. (CBC)

The roughly two-hour event includes excerpts and scenes from some of the Bard's most famous works, as well as original material.

Enos told CBC that the choice to perform outside and in the middle of everything — the first scene on the walking tour takes place outside bustling Lionel-Groulx Metro — is intentional and serves to enhance the theatre-going experience.

"We're agreeing to suspend our disbelief. You know, you turn your head and there's a car there. You're definitely engaged on a different level," he said.

Cajolet-Couture said she jumped at the chance "to use the landscape of the city," as a backdrop, and "to use the energy of the city to create art."

The audience is taken on a walk through the neighbourhood, watching several scenes from William Shakespeare's plays along the way. (CBC)

Maïté Sinave is one of the actors involved in the show.

She performs a monologue in French inspired by the character of Richard III's mother, Cecily, whom she described as a "forgotten character."

Sinave said she was very excited when she heard about the concept of the event.

"I love to do theatre in the streets. I like to be out of the theatres and to do it unusual spaces," she said. "These ruelles are absolutely wonderful."

Maïté Sinave performed a monologue from Richard III, playing the role of the King's mother. (CBC)

Shakespeare in the Ruelles runs from Sept. 7 to 9. More information about the event can be found here.

With files from CBC`s Nantali Indongo


Marilla Steuter-Martin has been a journalist with CBC Montreal since 2015.