The Divine: A play for Sarah Bernhardt tells the story of Sarah Bernhardt and the impact her arrival to the city of Quebec has on two local priests. There are a variety of themes, some more emotional than others, and questions that pop up throughout the play. In this post I will analyze the play through different lenses, such as setting, emotion and culture.
The Spatial Experience
When I first entered the theatre the lights were dimmed and the ambiance was subdued. I was sitting close to the front which allowed me to see the details of the stage more closely. The sets play a very important role in this play. They change and transform throughout each scene, much like the characters in the play. The set becomes another character in itself, by adding small details that show the progression and development of the play. By being able to sit in the front rows, I was able to see every small detail, like the set crew changing and setting up the next scene. The small size of the auditorium also made it feel like the room was its own world and the moment the play started you felt transported to a different world. Because the theater wasn't too big, it felt more intimate and it allowed the characters of the play to interact with the audience more in depth.
The Social Experience
I attended the presentation with friends from two different friendship groups. It was interesting to share this experience with peers who I knew from different settings. My friends from fencing had a different opinion and view of the play from that of my friends from high school, however we were all able to come together and discuss the different aspects of the play we enjoyed and found interesting. Watching a play with friends is a lot more fun and educating than alone because it provides you with an opportunity to discuss and argue different points. When you're alone or with strangers you are not able to have the same level of intellectual discussion. There is also the fact that sometimes your friends can help point out certain themes or motifs you did not recognize or understand at first.
The Cultural and Intellectual Experience
The play is set in the 1900s in Quebec, a place I have never been to before. However, many of the issues and conflicts that arise in the play are similar to those my home country of Costa Rica faces. Back home, church and state are joined and most of the population is catholic. This means that religion plays an important role in the decision making of many individuals. During the play I could not help but think that the story of The Divine could have easily taken place in my hometown. The issues of censorship, abuse of power and lack of progressiveness are not exclusive to a certain time or place. Sadly, we witness many similar events to those of The Divine in different parts of the world each day. Child molesters, slave workers and sexist work places did not stay behind with the passing of time, and even though we have advanced in many of these areas, they are still very much present. The ending of the play is also very realistic. It is not necessarily a happy one, which makes it more realistic. There is no happy ending where everyone finds true love and the bad guy receives a proper punishment. It is meant to show how life really works, which made me relate to it more.
The Emotional Experience
The Divine is a play that does not hesitate to discuss many issues that we are usually told should not be talked about. By making an effort to broach these subjects in a more alternative setting, audience members are forced to sit down and reflect on these issues until the moment the play is over. Theatre is not meant to promote a certain agenda or shove ideas into people's throats. It simply makes an effort to plant a seed of questioning in each individual that allows them to explore more deeply all these questions we are dissuaded from asking. Although it might make some people uncomfortable, especially around topics such as rape and child abuse, it is important to have these safe spaces where we are allowed to explore, discuss and question these topics.