The Sunday Magazine

Michel Tremblay's Hosanna, from 1973 to today

Tremblay's ground-breaking play continues to shock and move audiences with its frank portrayal of the relationship between a Montreal drag queen and his biker boyfriend. When it was first performed, most gay men lived their lives "in the closet." Since then, there has since been a sea change in the legal, political and social climate; gay rights are now firmly entrenched in Canada. Michael's guests are Damien Atkins, currently playing Hosanna onstage with the Soulpepper Theatre company in Toronto; and Eloi ArchamBaudoin, who played Hosanna last year Montreal, and will do so again next summer.
Damien Atkins and Jason Cadieux perform as Hosanna and Cuirette in Soulpepper's 2016 production of Hosanna in Toronto. (Bronwen Sharp)

It was shocking. It was disorienting. It was moving and thrilling.

When Michel Tremblay's play Hosanna was first mounted in 1973, audiences were glued to their seats. Canadian theatre-goers had never seen anything like it.

There was profanity. There was full frontal nudity. The central character, Hosanna, was a drag queen hair dresser. Her partner, Cuirette, a tough-talking biker. And it was a love story. A revolutionary idea right there. 

From 1974 - Richard Monette talks about playing Hosanna

Richard Monette's portrayal of Tremblay's troubled transvestite wins rave reviews.

This was long before anyone could imagine great big pride parades. "Trans" wasn't a common part of the language. Most gay men were deep in the closet.

That was then...and this is now. The world is a different place. But the play — which is very much of its time — has amazing staying power. There have been countless productions all over the world, in French and in English.

Michael spoke with two actors who are intimately acquainted with the character Hosanna about the play's past and future.

Eloi ArchamBaudoin as Hosanna and Davide Chiazzese as Cuirette. (Jaclyn Turner)

Eloi ArchamBaudoin played Hosanna last year at Montreal's Table D'Hote Theatre, and will do so again when the production returns to the Centaur Theatre this summer. Eloi was honoured as Outstanding Lead Performance - Actor, by the Montreal English Theatre Awards for the role. 

Damien Atkins stars as the title character in a production of Hosanna which is onstage now at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre. Atkins is a Dora Award-winning actor and playwright. In 2014, he won the Toronto Theatre Critics' Award for Best Actor, for "Angels in America."

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Damien Atkins and Eloi ArchamBaudoin.