Review: Le Concierge (The Caretaker)

by Lynn on March 20, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Saint-Frère-André Catholic School, Lansdowne Ave., Toronto, Ont. Co-produced by Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and the Théâtre Français de Toronto in association with Dopolavoro Teatrale. Playing until March 26, 2023.

Concept and performance: Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin

Co-creation: Daniele Bartolini and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin

Staging, Daniele Bartolini

Sound by Andrea Gozzi

Lighting by Sarah Mansikka

Scenography and costumes by Melanie McNeill

A wordless play about a Caretaker (Le Concierge) in a school doing his rounds. A play about loneliness. It’s moving and compelling.

You have to check in, get your time card, stamp your time card, hang up your coats etc. and then you are issued your overalls which you put on over your clothes.  You follow a ‘guide’ who takes you through the halls of this school to a dark room with a line of stools that are dimly lit. We each sit on a stool facing out into the darkness. A flashlight pops up illuminating the Caretaker’s face. Behind him is the dim outline of the seats of an auditorium. The stools and the group are up on the stage. If this is a spoiler, well, uh, sorry. It’s one of many surprises I won’t divulge.

The Caretaker checks various things and leaves. The ‘guide’ takes us to a classroom. The Caretaker is sitting in front of a large tv screen looking at a familiar painting of a gas station with three pumps on a deserted country road. Just visible near one of the pumps is the attendant. “Gas,” 1940, Edward Hopper. The Caretaker looks at the painting for a bit and then gets up. There is a configuration of tables and chairs in the room. He puts all the chairs in the room on top of the desks. He is meticulous in placing the chairs equally on each desk. Then he methodically mops the whole room.

The group follows the Caretaker to the next room. Again, he sits in front of another tv screen with another familiar painting: a well-dressed woman wearing a cloche hat, sits alone at a table, sipping a cup of coffee. “Automat,” 1927, Edward Hopper. The Caretaker gazes at that painting as well. A theme. No one painted loneliness, solitude and sadness like Edward Hopper.

The Caretaker goes about his job, alone. Again, he picks up the chairs and carefully puts each on the desk in front of it. One member of the group helps as well. I straighten one of the chairs on the desk.

This Caretaker is methodical and particular in his work. He is not sloppy. He goes into the men’s washroom and puts a sign on the door that he is cleaning. It’s Sunday afternoon. There is no school, yet he puts the sign up. I love that. He cleans the urinals until they gleam. He carefully removes a piece of chewed gum from one urinal and throws the gum in the trash.

Over the course of the show we will observe the Caretaker taking a break in a hole of a room; dingy, garbage strewn, a sort of cot. He makes and eats microwave popcorn and has a drink in a glass that is not tea. Sadness pervades all he does.

We follow him up and down stairs. In one room something happens and he seems to lose it. It’s quite dramatic. He regains composure. He continues his rounds. We follow and are beckoned to go into a room and mop. Some are adept and some are not. The last image is of the Caretaker sauntering up the unlit hallway, whistling, as he goes through a set of doors and disappears.

Director Daniele Bartolini has staged this immersive piece with all his usual wit, invention, attention to detail and sensitivity. Without a word being said, we have entered the solitary world of this Caretaker. To him, no one is watching, but there is pride and a sense of meticulousness in doing this work well.

He looks at and appreciates two paintings by Edward Hopper. At another point he looks out a window and watches the street scene with interest. The emotional breakdown of sorts is startling and gives us a picture of a human being in distress. Like waiters/waitresses, we don’t notice or remember a caretaker. Director Daniele Bartolini and the equally gifted actor Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin makes us pause, look, see and appreciate.

Co-produced by Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin and the Théâtre Français de Toronto in association with Dopolavoro Teatrale.

Playing until March 26, 2023.

Running Time: 80 minutes (no intermission)

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.