Friday, 14 August 2015

887

Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Five stars

The last time Quebecois theatrical powerhouse Robert Lepage came to Edinburgh two decades ago, his mesmeric mix of hi-tech visual poetry and story-telling was stopped in its tracks by technical hitches. As his astonishing overdue return makes clear in this European premiere by Lepage's Ex Machina company, technology has finally caught up with this ingenious renaissance man who has long been ahead of his time.

The past isn't always what it seems, however, as Lepage begins his two and a bit hours onstage with an anecdote about how the onset of iPhone culture has left him barely able to remember his own number, yet he is still able to recall events in his childhood growing up in Quebec City almost half a century ago. The catalyst for this was being asked to recite a poem to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of seismic events in Quebec's volatile Francophone history that provoked an angry plea for self-determination.

From this we're led by Lepage into his boyhood apartment block, onto the streets of Quebec, and into his latter-day home where he oversees his impressions of his personal history while coming to terms with the collective legacy of a nation in search of itself. Using a dazzling array of models and projections set up on a TARDIS-like revolving construction, what evolves is part auto-biography, part elegy for a mythologised collective past, and part call to arms. Lepage both preserves that past that defined him, and, in a world where no-one with a taxi driver father like him is able to study theatre anymore, pleas for change in this most quietly revolutionary and beguiling of experiences.

The Herald, August 14th 2015

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