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Volume 38, Number 1 (2013)

Politicizing Difference: Performing (Post)Colonial Historiography in Le Théâtre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France and Sinking Neptune

February 28, 2014


Four hundred years after Marc Lescarbot’s performance of Le Théâtre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France — the first documented play in Canada — Montreal’s Optative Theatrical Laboratories mounted a revisionist re-enactment, Sinking Neptune. Lescarbot’s play adapted the European oceanic masque and French réception to welcome the returning French colonial leader, to naturalize the imperial project, and to instruct its Indigenous Mi’kmaq viewers on how to act like dutiful “sauvages.” Sinking Neptune, in turn, critiques Lescarbot’s play as a colonialist “derogatory spectacle” and frames the play as an imperialist fantasy of intercultural harmony, challenging its cultural implications as a Canadian first. Through its collective creation process, multiple sources, divergent perspectives, shifts in historical context, and interactive performance, Sinking Neptune exemplifies postcolonial revisionist historiography. The play demonstrates that revisionist drama involves both a representation and a deconstruction of imperial values, rhetoric, and strategies to enact repetition with political difference.