Jean Louis Barrault-Madeleine Renaud Company

Marie-Helene Daste

At 18 I graduated out of grade 12 in Quebec city and immediately got a job to save money to study Theatre in London. While working, the newspapers advertised the coming of a French company from Paris to Quebec. The Barrault-Renaud Company. Husband and wife team that were going to produce three French Plays. Les Fourberies de Scapin, Le Medecin Malgre Lui, and La Repetition. The first two were Moliere plays, the third was The Rehearsal by Anouhil…a modern day drama. I attended all three productions by handing out the programmes at the door.

At that time I was applying for a grant from the Government to attend London University’s theatre programme. I needed a professional director or actor to give me a good referral. At the end of the companies stint, I found Marie-Helene Daste, an actress with the company. She auditioned me, thought I was worthwhile as an actress and wrote the necessary letter of referral. Nothing came of it, but we maintained contact with each other by mail.

In 1954 I crossed the channel from Britain to France and re-connected with her in Paris. She brought me to a rehearsal of a play that Barrault was directing. A play by Schehade. La soiree des Proverbs. She sat me beside him. I sat there pinching myself at being so close to the greatest living director of Theatre. He was rehearsing his company in the front lobby of the theatre. Sitting there looking so seriously, he took one look at me and then ordered the actors to play their roles as if they had a bee up one nostril. “Comme si vous aviez une abeille dans la narine.” So saying he stuck his forefinger and thumb up a nostril. I burst out laughing. He said, “Ahh! Elle est Vivante!”  She is alive!