Assorted Candies for the Theatre.


96 pages
ISBN 978-0-88922-572-5
DDC C842'.54





Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is Assistant Director of Libraries at the University of


It would be entirely misguided to say that this is simply a very successful adaptation of Tremblay’s Bonbons Assortis, also translated by the critically acclaimed Linda Gaboriau. It is a most generous selection of the soft-centred Proustian chocolates reordered and dramatically reworked from his fourth book of autobiographical narratives, but it is also a virtual demonstration of the author’s talent for cajoling memories into a form that has held Québécois and Canadians alike enthralled for some 50 years.


It begins with a present-day narrator explaining his philosophy of memory (“Hey what do you want, a story or the truth?”) complete with some self-referential winks. Then, just when you think the narrator is going to be a big, intrusive lecturer, he reverts to the small child listening to his elders from under the kitchen table and the play becomes a living demonstration of the truth and the story being knit together. Recurrent family squabbles over living together take on the distinct voice of Tremblay’s mother, grandmother, Aunt Albertine, his father, and his uncle. Of note is the unusually strong masculine presence in this stage adaptation. Human foibles revolving around coming up with a suitable wedding present or the business of packing and unpacking Christmas ornaments or whether to put “synonym” (cinnamon) in the apple pie create a series of scenes where the characters’ voices and obsessive themes provide seamless and natural transitions in the avalanche of personal stories. In their mouths, period detail is parcelled out as needed (e.g., 10 chocolate bars for 50 cents) to situate the action in time without an intrusive narrative explanation.


And so the play draws to an end … and an inevitable family crisis. But, with dexterity, the active playwright shows his genius by suddenly pulling back slightly and heaping upon the audience a shock of stories (memories?) simultaneously clamouring for expression from the mouths of his flesh-and-blood characters. Magically, he opens his artistic soul for all to see. This play is as entrancing as the short story collection on which it is based.


Tremblay, Michel., “Assorted Candies for the Theatre.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,