Abitibi, Québec, the 1960s.  A poverty-stricken family live in self-imposed isolation. The volatile authoritarian father searches for freedom; the mother remains silent and powerless.  Their children guard the family’s secrets. Will the intrusion of an outsider mean escape or a new danger?

 The Reel of The Hanged Man deals with a brutal hidden world: the abuse of power, incest and the isolation that comes from it. The play treats in a complex manner the subject of sexual abuse within the family.

Jeanne-Mance Delisle’s play, Un Reel Ben Beau Ben Triste (The Reel of the Hanged Man), is generally regarded in Québec as one the most important plays of the last thirty years.  It was first produced in May 1978 by the Theatre de Coppe in Rouyn in Delisle’s native district of Abitibi, a mining region situated about four hundred miles north-west of Montreal.  The title translates literally as ‘a really beautiful, really sad reel’ and refers to the use of a Québec fiddle tune called ‘Le reel du pendu’, or ‘The Reel of the Hanged Man’ as the thematic material for the music of the play.

Funded by the Scottish Arts Council’s Scotland Onstage Scheme and with the support of a British Centre for Literary Translation residency funded by the European Commission Ariane Programme, Stellar Quines commissioned the first ever translation of this Québecois play, with Martin Bowan and Bill Findlay opting to translate the Québecois vernacular into Scots. The Reel of the Hanged Man was first presented to a Scottish audience in 1999 as part of the third Rehearsal Room.


Speaks as much to the guts as to the heart or head… scenes which will haunt my waking and sleeping hours. (La Presse)
… a play of great beauty. (Lettres Québecoises)
Every now and then a play comes along which is so courageous and so poignant that it reminds us why we go to the theatre. (The Scotsman )

Production Tour Dates

  • 29 March – 2 April, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
  • 5 April, Garrison Theatre, Lerwick, Shetland
  • 18 April, Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
  • 25 – 29 April, Tron Theatre, Glasgow
  • 3 – 4 May, Paisley Arts Centre

The Reel of the Hanged Man (2000)

Stellar Quines commissioned this, the first ever translation of this Quebecois play by Jeanne-Mance Delisle.

Creative Team

  • Writer : Jeanne-Mance Delisle
  • Translators : Martin Bowman & Bill Findlay
  • Director : Muriel Romanes
  • Designer : Caroline Grebbel
  • Lighting Director: Natasha Chivers
  • Musical Director: Andi Neate
  • Costume: Karen Smith
  • Choreographer: Keri


  • Marnie Baxter
  • Melanie Bradley
  • John Clyde
  • Deirdre Davis
  • George Drennan
  • Kern Falconer
  • Isabelle Joss
  • James McAvoy


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Images © Marc Marnie