Presented by Ex Machina
Reviewed 2nd March, 2018
Canadian Robert Lepage deploys lots of hardware and software to induce a light trance state in his audience, using the nostalgia surrounding space travel events recalled from childhood to speak to the human heart and its ability to love and forgive without understanding why.
In this multidisciplinary piece of theatre, the words do matter, but never as much as the vision. In fact, many of the words are either projected or hand-written onto a blackboard. There is a single human protagonist, the very busy actor Yves Jacques. He plays two contentious brothers (glasses for one, goatee for the other) with panache and clarity. Yet he, too, is part of the multiple moving things that become the mise en scène for the story. A rack of ugly fluorescent light troughs is raised or lowered, a wall of reflective mylar sheeting appears either vertically behind the actor or horizontally in front of him. Huge sliding panels with blackboard surfaces enable a television station’s weather presentation, a university lecture, and more. There’s a flying sequence, of course. And there are astro-puppets. Steel gantries quietly support intricately-folding mechanisms; the whole thing works like an origami box.
Circles abound. From the opening scene’s round door of a laundromat washing machine, the theme continues in clocks, a round goldfish bowl, the mouth of an MRI machine. The visual rhythms are both elegant and hypnotic.
The sole actor is in danger of being swamped by his set. Jacques displays a remarkable range of acting resources, however; his bravura sequence, re-purposing a simple ironing board as a range of gym equipment, is just one instance. Real-time video feeds of Jacques’ actions help to emphasise the emotional grain of the story.
American avant-gardist Laurie Anderson composed and recorded the original music; her bravery and sensitivity balance the breadth of Lepage’s vision.
As the glittering first-night audience filed out of the dear old Maj., I heard someone murmur to their companion, “It was all about rebirth, wasn’t it?” Absolutely true – if that’s what the show said to you. All answers are correct.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: 2nd – 7th March 2018
Duration: 2 hours [no interval]
Tickets: Full Price: $99:00 Concession: $64:00