When did you have the epiphany to become an actress / playwright?
I can’t say it was an epiphany. I like to say that it grew on me. I started doing theater when I was 8 or 9 years old but it was just for fun, after school, and I kept at it for a couple of years, being in the school plays and taking improv and drama classes whenever I had the chance. I really decided I wanted to make a living out of it, or try to make a living out of it, when I first came to Paris on a student exchange. I was staying with a girl whose mother was an actress. She was such an impressive woman, so touching, and she made me believe that it was possible for me to do this. She brought me to so many plays. She really inspired me to go all the way and not to be scared of really committing to it.
What can you tell us about the differences between theater and acting in Montreal, in Paris and in Algiers?
Well, what I can say about this is naturally tainted by my experience in each of those cities, which are very different. I’ve been a drama student in Montreal. In Paris I was a student, but I was also trying to work and make a living and I’ve never practised theater in Algeria. I think the main difference between Paris and Montreal is the theater tradition. Canada is a really young country compared to France and that makes a difference in every domain. France has a great, immense theater and cultural tradition. In Canada we are creating it as we go. We don’t have the Molières and the Racines. Our most famous author, Michel Tremblay, who defined Quebec literature especially in plays, is still alive. I think this lack of tradition allows us, and probably forces us, to create our own identity, yesterday but also on a day to day basis.
I remember what you told me a year ago about your own plays, you are essentially and existentialist. You are an absurdist.
Well, I co-wrote one play with two other actresses. We had to do this exercise for school in which we had to write a small bit in a chosen genre. We decided to work with our absurdist ﬁber and make a totally randomly absurd play which we called ‘Il pleut toujours les jours d’enterrement’ (It Always Rains on Wake Days). The play opens on one widow standing still who’s quickly joined by two others. They’re in front of the tomb. They don’t know each other but they quickly learn that they can’t leave the cemetery. The whole point of the play is to understand how can they leave without knowing why they are there. What we love about this play is that every viewer leaves with a different idea of what actually happened in the play.
And what do you like in the absurdist movement?
I like how they perceive the world as being totally absurd and how they translate the world in a more absurd way, pushing each situation to its extreme. It’s funny, but also awkward. It forces reflection because you know that what is happening in the play is very accurate and actual but they make you see it differently. What is accepted by everyone is shown or said in a way that it is no longer acceptable and the line is so fine that it’s hard to see why you accepted it in the first place.
If you could change one thing about Paris or the region of Ile de France, what would it be?
The bureaucracy! That is the first thing I would change because it is totally spoiling my experience here. There’s always something that has to be taken care of. It’s like that for the French, but being a foreigner, it’s a whole other story. I honestly think the French bureaucracy is a reason why the economy is so bad. It’s a joke but not that much because, as I understand it, any paperwork goes through the hands of so many different people, so many different levels of hierarchy. There are so many copies of this proof of address and this birth certificate going around… it must cost them a fortune to maintain that kind of process.
You are tricultural at the very least. What does that feel like?
Schizophrenic at times. For example, I have a French accent when I talk to French people. When I pick up the phone and call my mother I switch to a thick Quebec accent. When I talk to my dad, who’s Algerian but lives in Canada, I have this mixture of French, Algerian and a Quebec accent. That aptitude is great and helps me blend in a lot, but if I sit down with a French person, a Quebecer and an Algerian… I’ll feel really confused and I won’t be able to speak freely.