Critical Stages 8 July 2024

It was not a phrase I dwelt over. Certainly, I did not expect it to have staying power. But when I wrote that Michel Tremblay was “the best playwright Scotland never had” in a 1992 review of The House Among the Stars, it struck a chord.

Within a few days, my comment about the Quebecois dramatist had found its way into a headline in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. That was the entry point into countless citations in Canadian academic journals and books. Now, here it is again, slightly misquoted (“the best” has become “the greatest”), on the jackets of these two anthologies of Tremblay’s plays as rendered into Scots by the transatlantic team of Martin Bowman and the late Bill Findlay, who died in 2005.

So what did I mean? Tremblay, of course, is every bit the Montreal playwright. Born in 1942, he made his name giving poetic voice to the working-class French speakers he grew up with, not least with his 1968 debut Les Belles-soeurs, about a woman who throws a party to help her process the million trading stamps she has won in a lottery. [READ MORE]

By Mark Fisher

MARK FISHER is a freelance theatre critic and feature writer based in Edinburgh and has written about theatre in Scotland since the late-1980s. He is a theatre critic for The Guardian, a former editor of The List magazine and a frequent contributor to the Scotsman and other publications. He is the co-editor of the play anthology Made in Scotland (1995), and the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (2012) and How to Write About Theatre (2015) – all Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. He is also the editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls and What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book (both Mark Fisher Ltd).