Sunday, 23 November 2008

Performance - Assessment Criteria

Hi all,

Just a reminder that here are the three assessment criteria we had decided for your performance in Week 11:

  1. Clarity of storytelling - how well are the stories connected?
  2. How well was the piece staged?
  3. How successful were the 'resources' (set, props) in transforming scenes / making transitions?


Sunday, 12 October 2008

Readings for week 4 (next week)...

Hi All,

There are 2 articles I would like you to have read before next class:

  • Theater sans Frontières: Essays on the Dramatic Universe of Robert Lepage. ‘Identity and Universality: Multilingualism in Robert Lepage’s Theater’ (pages 3-19)
  • Hamlet in Pieces, pages 95-149

I have photocopied both of these articles for you all and you will find them at the Main Office in Sutherland House (due to the size of the articles I will leave them in the office rather than outside in the trays - so please ask at the office and they will give you copies of both articles)

Please ensure you have read both articles before next week as we will be discussing them in class

Have a good week and see you next Monday,


Sunday, 5 October 2008

Week 3...

Hi All,

In week 3 I will be away in the afternoon, but I have set the task to watch the complete DVD of 'The Andersen Project' during class time (the video is approximately 2 hours). A register will be taken in my absence so it is essential that you attend as normal.

In addition to watching the video, I would also like you to read the following 3 reviews to build up a clearer picture of the critical responses to the work, which was staged at the Barbican in 2006.

We will begin week 4 by discussing these reviews as well as your responses to 'The Andersen Project' in some detail, so please ensure you have made notes about the areas of the production that interested you.


The Guardian
'The Andersen Project', Barbican, London
Review by Michael Billington
Monday January 30 2006

The Independent
‘The Andersen Project’, Barbican, London
‘Fairy tale with a Grimm streak’
Review by Paul Taylor
Tuesday, 31 January 2006

The British Theatre Guide
‘The Andersen Project’, Barbican, London
Review by
Philip Fisher

Friday, 3 October 2008


Hi all,

Apologies to anyone who has experienced difficulties getting hold of the 'Connecting Flights' reading.

It is in the plastic trays on the wall outside the Main Office (the reading is actually only 2 pages long so don't worry, you still have plenty of time to read it before class!)

Any problems you can reach me via my email address,



Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1994)

The Seven Streams of the River Ota

The first project Robert Lepage created for his company Ex Machina, 'The Seven Streams of the River Ota' is a saga that opens in Hiroshima during the late 20th century and divides into seven tableaux. The symbolic centrepiece of the work is the major event of the explosion of the first atomic bomb, but the work also tells the story of a Czech artist whose childhood was marked by his time in the Terezin concentration camp and who died in Hiroshima, on the banks of the River Ota. To the themes of death by atomic bomb and in concentration camps is added that of death by virus, taking the form of a person with AIDS whose only escape is assisted suicide. In spite of so much grief, the idea of survival emerges with vigour, and Hiroshima resurfaces as a symbol of renaissance rather than destruction.

Theatre Reviews:

'Restless Tribute to Human Resilience'
By PETER MARKS Published: December 4, 1996, Wednesday
*Published in what publication?* - Liam

''I thought you say you take pictures of physical damage,'' the disfigured Japanese woman says in broken English to the American war photographer in one of the opening scenes of Robert Lepage's visually stunning epic-length dramatic work, ''The Seven Streams of the River Ota.'' With her back to the audience, she implores the G.I. to record what the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima has done not only to her surroundings, but also to her.

Her demand for pictorial truth overpowers his revulsion. ''When I die,'' she explains, ''I want people to see my face.'' Kneeling before her, he gently removes her kimono, then steps back to shoot. The neutral eye of the camera allows the soldier to see the external effects of the radiation, and opens his eyes, too, to an inner radiance that the bomb could not extinguish.

With this sentimental, seemingly inconsequential love story on the edge of the abyss, Mr. Lepage, the visionary French-Canadian director, and his versatile cast and crew set in motion an ambitious, rambling, exhilarating portrait of human resilience amid the cultural shifts and multiple apocalypses of the mid- to late 20th century. Jumping from epoch to epoch, continent to continent and language to language, ''The Seven Streams of the River Ota'' employs the narrative techniques of this century and others -- film, documentary, novel, French farce, Noh drama, opera and even medieval Japanese puppetry -- to create a theater piece as sweeping and untamed and whimsical as the modern world itself.

The seven-hour work, which is being performed in two parts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Majestic Theater through Dec. 14, is the product of an artist at the height of his powers. Ceaselessly, restlessly inventive, Mr. Lepage, a visual imagist who has tackled subjects as diverse as the life of Leonardo da Vinci (''Vinci''), the Old versus the New World (''Tectonic Plates'') and the Chinese experience in Canada (''The Dragons Trilogy''), is obsessed with discovering new ways to tell stories on a stage. Like his war photographer, he is an artist of new technology, meticulously searching for the damage, and always happening upon the beauty.

Mr. Lepage and his myriad collaborators have, for the most part, spared the audience art for art's sake. This is not the kind of airless performance piece that relies on solemn theatrical abstractions like ''myth'' and ''ritual'' and tries to hypnotize rather than entertain (although it does, in the slightly arch fashion of the day, employ theatrically correct puppeteering). Also, the production does take its own sweet time. If the fairly uneventful tale of the soldier and the disfigured woman occupies an hour, so be it; if it takes what seems like eons to depict an elliptical conversation in a Japanese restaurant, then that is O.K. with Mr. Lepage, too.

There is, in fact, nothing conventionally compressed for the stage in this sprawling drama. The seven streams of the title refer to the tributaries of the Ota, a river in Hiroshima, and the seven interrelated stories that begin with the encounter at the woman's cottage in Hiroshima in 1945.

The brief affair has consequences that resonate on three continents for the next 50 years, conjoining disparate people, cultures and cataclysms in a series of Stoppardian chance encounters and parallel events. Hiroshima, the Holocaust and the AIDS epidemic become connected calamities, in the interwoven courses of individual lives. Mr. Lepage, a stylist with a theoretician's appreciation of both order and chaos, has the idea that in the modern world, there are no degrees of separation.

In one of the work's many human chains that stretch across the various stories, a son of the wartime photographer meets a Dutch opera singer in New York City, whose mother died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she had befriended a Czech girl. The girl survives and grows up to be a monk in a Zen monastery in Japan, where she becomes friends with a blind Japanese translator who is the half-sister-in-law of the American soldier's son, who dies of AIDS. Whew.

As the piece progresses, the mixings of languages and cultural traditions multiply. A theater troupe from Quebec performs a Feydeau farce in Osaka, in French. The story of the infidelity of a Canadian diplomat is performed by Bunraku puppets. A phone call between a Japanese and a Canadian is carried on, with the assistance of an unreliable translator, in French, Japanese and English. To survive in this complex world, everyone, it seems, must adapt.

The characters are not always well defined: the opera singer, the monk and the translator are chilly, remote creations. And often, the distinctions and connections Mr. Lepage and company are trying to draw are more carefully rendered than the people themselves. This may be a result of the way in which the director, his ensemble of nine actors and the design team have created the work. Mr. Lepage, once an improvisatory comedian, has long been associated with Theatre Repere, a company based in Quebec City that holds to the idea that the text, characters and design should evolve together through the contributions of everyone involved.

But whenever the piece starts to suffer from too-many-cooks syndrome, it is rescued by the virtuosity of its ravishing imagery.

The Japanese cottage is the literal staging ground for virtually all that occurs in ''The Seven Streams.'' Mr. Lepage and the set designer, Carl Fillion, place most of the action in the tiny rooms of the house. In endlessly changing configurations, the cottage's exterior screens are slid in and out to reveal apartments, cafes, theaters. Mirrors, video screens and stage sets within the set are employed as devices to advance the storytelling.

The effect is both theatrical and cinematic. Enclosed by the rectangular rooms, the scenes look like frames of a movie. In a series of vignettes that constitute the second ''stream'' -- a funny, meandering playlet set in New York in 1965, titled ''Two Jeffreys'' -- the screens are pulled back to reveal a warren of a rooming house filled with young musicians and other transients. The three-room layout, resembling nothing so much as a triptych, is a model of ingenuity and caprice.

There are painterly touches, too, such as the exquisite moment near the end of the third ''stream,'' called ''A Wedding,'' in which the American son of the soldier opts to end his life in Amsterdam in 1985 through the legally acceptable practice there of assisted suicide. Lying silently on a cot, with his doctor and his friends nearby and daylight streaming in through a window, he dies in a freeze frame as painstakingly rendered as a Vermeer.

In a work that strives so earnestly for harmony among its musical, dramatic and design elements, no actor is a particular standout. The star is, in a sense, the big picture they have helped to create, the portrait of the world assembled from all the dazzling images that Mr. Lepage draws from his seven streams.

The director ends his immense saga in the present, with the scattering of the cremated remains of the half-American, half-Japanese child of the war photographer and the bomb victim, on the banks of the Ota, at the edge of a restored Hiroshima. It's an apt place for Mr. Lepage's vision of a world of horrible endings and hopeful rebirths. For just as ashes can be wind-borne, so can seedlings.

Posted by Nicole Wooldridge and Kelly Barber

Vinci (1986)

  • 'Vinci' - (a hillside of olive trees) - The title of this play immediately delivers very dense visual impact. This is ironic as the narrator is a blind, Italian man in the original production. As audience members we are pushed away from the reassurance of an omniscient narrator and encouraged towards autonomy. This is an effective technique as it enables a more in-depth appreciation of language, meaning and de Vinci as an influential visual artist.
  • The use of the train as a visual tool to communicate the concept that “art is a vehicle” is intriguing because we are introduced to differing and controversial associations with both art and its ability of carry us.

* Leanne/Dorcas: Some really interesting research findings here, but what is the source for this information? It's really important at University level to always cite the original source of the information you are quoting...* - Liam

Posted by Leanne Lashley and Dorcas Olatunji

The Dragons' Trilogy (1985)

Dragons’ Trilogy by Robert Lepage
Reviews on Robert Lepage’s Dragons’ Trilogy
The Internet Theatre Magazine of reviews

In 1986, The Dragons' Trilogy launched Robert Lepage's genius into the international consciousness. After twenty years of phenomenal success and recognition, this epic theatrical experience remains as moving and unique as ever. Lepage's trademarks of breathtakingly beautiful images and impressionistic narrative are reproduced to full effect. He explores generations of characters living through the shifting liminalities of race, identity and social change, to reveal the Orient beneath the surface and within the imagination. The first act, Green Dragon opens in 1910 near Quebec City's Chinatown. Two French Canadian teenagers (Françoise and Jeanne) play and laugh together, setting down a street map out of shoeboxes and peopling them with characters. In a characteristic blend of fantasy and onstage reality, they imagine an Englishman wanting to open a shoe shop who duly appears onstage. He then visits the local Chinese laundryman enquiring about shoes. The two men's entrepreneurial foray into a poker club has disastrous consequences for Jeanne's drunken, widowed father who is teetering on the edge of daily bankruptcy.

The second act, Red Dragon, follows the two girls, their domestic situations and their misfortunes against the backdrop of events with worldwide significance. A husband who is neither his wife's lover nor his daughter's biological father, a child with a disabling illness and a mother's breast cancer coincide with the broader tragedy of war.

In the final part, White Dragon, some of the fragmentation is reconciled and the action concludes in a cyclical fashion. The Englishman Crawford, now wheelchair-bound, metaphysically returns to his birthplace Hong Kong in death. The children of immigrants encounter each other across language and race barriers: Yukali (Emily Shelton), descended from an absconded American pilot and a geisha killed in Hiroshima meets Françoise's son, the conceptual artist Pierre (Hugues Frenette).

The Barbican's cavernously vast auditorium has been converted into two parallel smaller blocks of seating and thus neutralizes the theatre's usual impersonal immensity. The set is a gravel-filled space with a single lamppost at one end and a wooden booth at the other. The fine grey gravel is trudged across, dug in, and even converted into a zen garden. Images from news clips, of the skies or of details onstage are projected onto a screen at one end and adds texture to the action.

Lepage's famously dreamlike style is simple and understated. The production encompasses the broadest themes imaginable, but in such an unaffected way that it is utterly beguiling. Dances realize prophetic dream sequences or re-enact segments of the narrative in a creative and ingenious way.

At one point, two lovers in army uniform skate around the edge of the stage to the "Skaters' Waltz." As the music grows louder, they are joined by other soldiers and the patriotic, congratulatory send off quickly develops into a destructive march, trampling domestic effects and forcing helpless civilians out of their way.

The actors demonstrate a chameleon versatility with which they unrecognisably adopt different roles. The music (performed by Jean-Sébastien Côté) is hauntingly atmospheric and seamlessly integrated into the action. One particularly poignant song, "Youkali" by Kurt Weill, is full of yearning and lyrical ache for a harmonious world.

This experience will expand your theatrical outlook, making other productions look staid, conventional and mundane. The unique chance to see The Dragons' Trilogy is both a perfect introduction to Lepage's brilliance and an exceptional opportunity for fans to revisit a formative play. The stories are at once human and cosmic, and the far-reaching themes are produced imaginatively and unpretentiously.

This indescribably mesmeric production is a flawless combination of aesthetic majesty and emotional integrity. It will assail your senses, enthral and enchant you.

Review: The Dragons' Trilogy, by Robert Lepage

How can you sum up 325 minutes of theatre - that's nearly five and a half hours (albeit with three intervals) - that whirls with imagery, pulses with energy and buzzes with ideas?

At the level of narrative, The Dragons' Trilogy, now at the Barbican in London, could be summarised as a too-neat, too-circular family saga: two young French-Canadian girls living in Quebec City in the 1930s, close friends, begin the play just on the cusp of adolescence. One gets pregnant and is gambled away to become the wife of a first-generation Chinese-Canadian by the drunken barber father. The other joins the army, marries "appropriately" and has two sons. Meanwhile in Japan, a geisha is made pregnant by an abusive Englishman, who abandons her. The daughter of that baby will eventually get together with the French-Canadian's son, while the illegitimate daughter will, well not to give too much away, will suffer a nasty fate.

Yet the director, Robert Lepage, is not, you can't but feel, terribly interested in narrative, or indeed dialogue. He knows audiences expect it, crave it, and gives them the bare bones, in a sometimes naturalistic, sometimes stylised mixture of English, French, Chinese and Japanese. (There are surtitles when necessary.)

What really matters to him, however, is the stunning image, the shock of movement, the flash of light. Sometimes it is surreal. At one point a nun standing in the basket of a speeding bicycle (being ridden by the father of that illegitimate girl, still a delivery man in his home town) is shouting out the humiliation of her public trial in China after the revolution, underneath a screen image of Mao, while the married French-Canadian woman sits on the roof of a shed learning to type to a disembodies voice of an instruction manual that is actually commenting on the action, while her old friend sits and mourns the departure of her daughter.

Yet it all makes sense. Really!

The triology is staged in a pit of gravel, a brilliant touch for often what is important here is the swish of movement through it, or the stamp of (metaphor) jackboots, even the slice of ice-skates. An often underused sense often strains for full fitness. It is also a Japanese garden, a grave, our earth mother, and a parking lot that contains the history of all that came before.

So what does it all mean? I heard more than one member of the audience asking. That's where the reviewer's task gets really difficult. It would be possible to use phrases made vacuous by overuse like "choice and free will", "the flow of life", "the human condition", "the modern condition", "the female condition". Really, this is a show about life in all of its messy, and metaphorical, reality.

And it is an optimistic reality. The new generation, coming to life as the old fades away with the "white dragon" of autumn, seems to be making a better fist of it, in its glorious multicultural, multi-ethnic reality, than did their parents and grandparents.
Last time the Trilogy was produced in London, one reviewer said "See Robert Lepage and die". It is hard to disagree.

The city Limits Magazine had the following Summary of the play:

Here's an event to fall in love with. In four parts (like many fine trilogies) spanning 80 years and the breadth of Canada, this full version of The Dragons' Trilogy lasts six hours, all of which possess a visual elegance of symphonic proportions; at its best it is a breathtaking marriage of grace and emotional resonance.

Director Robert Lepage begins with a range of materials – a parking-lot kiosk, an expanse of sand, some lengths of rope – and a fundamental image or theme – an impressionistic portrait of Canada's Chinatowns in this century. From these he has woven a vast fabric in which the unlikeliest juxtapositions make for wholly unexpected cumulative effects: a typing tuition tape comments upon a character's fears, a nun recounts her mission's expulsion from Communist China while standing in the pannier of a speeding bicycle.

The experience builds insidiously from a leisurely start, drawing the audience imperceptibly into ever more intimate involvement. As the vague narratives unfold (in English, Québecois French, Chinese and Japanese) to the accompaniment of Robert Caux's haunting score, contrasts between scenes become more and more agonising, with climactic set-pieces – a savage march of victory/destruction, the simultaneous arrival of Halley's Comet and a Chinese New Year dragon ("dragon star", geddit?) – of shattering intensity. See Robert Lepage and die.

*This information is all very useful in helping us to build a picture of the productio. Please get into the habit of providing the source of any information you are quoting, or any quotes cited. You've listed the name of the publication but who wrote these reviews? Is there a link? What was the date of publication? This is all research information that we need to know...* - Liam

Posted by Lauren Tudhope

Polygraph (1987)

‘Le Polygraphe’ Synopsis

‘Le Polygraphe’ was first performed in 1987 and tells the story of a murder in Quebec City, involving only three characters, two male and one female. “One character is suspected in the killing, another dissected the body, and yet another is auditioning for the role of the dead woman in a filmed dramatization of the tragedy.”

It is believed to be based upon the real murder investigation of a friend of Robert Lepage, in which he was a suspect.

Throughout the piece Lepage explores the idea of truth and in particular the perception of film as a lie. An example of this is when the character Francois takes a ‘polygraph test’ (or lie detector test). He knows himself to be innocent in the murder, but when he is not told the results of the test, doubt starts to take over, and he begins to wonder if he really is guilty. This self-doubt is then heightened when he discovers a film is being made about the investigation, and so Lepage uses this to question how something we know to be fictional can have the ability to change our perceptions of reality.

Review of ‘Le Polygraphe’ Robert Lepage

“So who was the murderer?" asked one puzzled woman on leaving this revival of Robert Lepage's teasing 1987 metaphysical detective story. Based on a real-life case - the unsolved rape and murder of a young actress in Quebec City in 1980, for which Lepage himself was briefly the chief suspect - the question isn't who did it, or why they did it, but how it was done.

Like an autopsy discovering hidden secrets, these stunning 90 minutes peel away layer upon layer of theatrical convention, drawing on the imagery of film noir, the splatter movie, Hamlet and the Berlin wall to tell a story of love, guilt, life, death, and the way we wall ourselves up and close our minds to the obvious. This is an evening of skeletons that sit up, ghosts that walk, bricks that seep blood, and the darker corners of the human mind.

As with much of Lepage's work, a lot of it is done with mirrors. You keep wishing you could hit a rewind button to check that you really did see what you thought you saw. The form of the piece closely reflects its subject: the elusiveness of truth; the fact that it is always multi-layered and never absolute. Played against, above and around a vast solid wall, like the backdrop of a cheap film set, the piece creates a shadowy, slightly sinister urban landscape in which the apparently unconnected lives of the three protagonists collide and intertwine.

François, a young waiter who likes violent sexual games, is the neighbour of Lucie, an actress cast in a movie as a murder victim. Only towards the end of the shoot does she discover that she is playing the woman whom François was suspected of killing some years previously, and that her new lover, Christof, was the pathologist on the case.

Giles Croft's production has the sleight of hand to match Lepage's text, and if the evening never warms up emotionally, the sense of dislocation and distance has its own benefits, casting the audience as camera, voyeur and possibly even murderer.

*Abby/Alisdair: This is good but what is the source for this review? It would be useful to know the link, the journalist's name and the date it was published...* - Liam

The New York Times
'Metaphysics and Crime'
Published: October 27, 1990

In the opening sequences of "Polygraph," a play that is billed by its creators as a "metaphysical detective story," many striking but seemingly unrelated images are introduced onto the stage. A skeleton lies in front of a low brick wall behind which a criminologist (Pierre Auger) engages in an overlapping conversation with a waiter (Marc Beland). Their monologues merge into a dialogue that compares the flow of blood to the human heart to the traffic routes in and out of East Berlin. Moments later, an actress (Marie Brassard) auditioning for a movie, confesses that her goal is to play the title role in "Hamlet." The waiter reappears in a restaurant frantically clearing tables and sniffing cocaine and later in a bar practicing bondage and flagellation.

Over the next 90 minutes, the criminologist, the actress and the waiter are revealed to be enmeshed in a triangle. The actress has been chosen to play the lead role in a movie depicting the unsolved murder of a woman in Montreal several years earlier. It emerges that the waiter, who lives in an apartment on the other side of a wall from the actress, was originally suspected of the crime. It also emerges that the polygraph test that helped clear him of suspicion was administered by the criminologist, who in an attempt to trick him had lied to him about the results. The criminologist, who learned his techniques of interrogation in East Berlin, becomes romantically involved with the actress, who in turn has an affair with the waiter.

Handsomely staged by the French-Canadian company Le Theatre Repere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, "Polygraph" is a fascinating attempt to make a play that has the form and texture of a film. The script, written by Miss Brassard and the experimental director Robert Lepage, divides the drama into 20 short "sequences" in which theatrical equivalents are found for film-making techniques like dissolves, crosscutting, montage, flashbacks, dream sequences and slow-motion action.

If Mr. Lepage is hardly the first director to attempt a synthesis of the vocabularies of film and theater, his particular blend shows an exceptional visual flair, rhythmic energy and deftness in the manipulation of symbols. As Mr. Lepage demonstrated in his six-hour theater work, "The Dragons' Trilogy," he also has a special talent for finding symbols that at first seem arbitrary but that through intensive reworking assume an epic richness and significance. In "Polygraph," the most prominent symbol is the wall, which is the wall between the two apartments, the Berlin wall, the barriers between men and women, and finally an obstacle to the truth.

The production also skillfully integrates ritualistic athletic movement into the drama. Scenes in which the three actors climb over, slide down and writhe against the wall in various states of terror and erotic engagement have a compelling visceral drive. The three actors -- but especially Miss Brassard -- move from conventional narrative into expressionistic pantomime and back with a seamless sense of dramatic flow.

It is a measure of the success of "Polygraph" that the work it recalls the most strongly is not a play but Michelangelo Antonioni's mystery film "Blow Up," which was set in swinging London in the late 1960's. If "Polygraph," with its expressionistic use of slide patterns, shadow and computerized music, suggests a futuristic film noir, it brings the same obsessed fascination to a particular crime. As in "Blow Up," the more one learns of what might have taken place, the deeper the mystery becomes.

Written by Marie Brassard and Robert Lepage; directed by Mr. Lepage; music, Pierre Brousseau and Yves Chamberland; set design, Mr. Lepage; props manager, Steve Lucas; translation, Gyllian Raby; lighting design, Eric Fauque and Mr. Lepage; assistant set designer, Jean Hazel; stage manager, Mr. Fauque; slides, Dave Lepage. Music performed live by Mr. Brousseau. Le Theatre Repere presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Lichtenstein, president and executive producer. At Lepercq Space, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn.

Posted by Abby Jones and Alisdair Hinton

Elsinore (1995)


"Elsinore', by Robert Lepage, is a solo-performer production of 'Hamlet' that was first performed in Toronto in April 1996. An Earlier French-language production of Elsineur was performed in Montreal in September 1995. The play is performed with an enormous computer-controlled multimedia machine made up of modular flats that can be either performed or projected upon."

'What draws me to 'Hamlet' is his ability to forge a link between the acts he must undertake and his own thoughts. In a private moment, he says to Horatio 'Give me that man that is not passion's slave and I will wear him in my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart.' And yet, isn't the absence of blind passion that prevents him from doing what he has to do? In any case, 'Elsinore' is not a real 'Hamlet', but a tentative exploration of the intricacies of his thought and times and in some sense of my own.'
Robert Lepage

"Following 'Vinci' and 'The Needles And Opium', Robert Lepage is now completing his trilogy of one-man plays by taking on Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. With 'Elsinore', Lepage has created a remarkable synthesis of dazzling theatre technology and cinematic conventions (including film-like projected credits) to create an intensely personal, richly architectu ral take on the drama of Shakespeare. The production is an interactive video designed for one actor, embodied by Robert Lepage himself who plays all the roles, including Ophelia.

Lepage engages us not only with the rich text, but with the complex stage mechanics (designed by Carl Fillion), the multimedia effects (Jaques Collin), the video animation (Michel Petrin) and Robert Caux's soundscape.

The masterful use of these technologies makes the audience see things that they would not normally be able to see. Infrared and thermal cameras, sonar slides make it possible to see behind walls, to see the colour of Hamlet's despair, emphasizing thus the play's claustrophobic atmosphere. The actor, in something of a state of virtual reality, literally enters into the play. The stage is a set comprised of three moveable panels. The central one rotates into everything from a ship???s deck to the stairway to the Queen???s bedchamber. The cut-out at its center becomes a library window, a grave and the lake in which Ophelia drowns."

*Scarlett & Grace: What is the source for these quotes? This is excellent information but please ensure you reference the source* - Liam

Posted by Scarlett Brooke and Grace Mitchell

The Geometry of Miracles (1998)

The Gazette
March 18th, 2000, Pat Donnelly
Lepage's Geometry refines Wright angles.

The works of Robert Lepage aren’t so much plays as they are dreamscapes, obeying the mind’s nocturnal whims rather than its daytime logic.

His Geometry of Miracles is a flowing visionary piece that follows the life story of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, from age 62 to his death almost 30 years later. When it was launched two years ago at the Du Marier World Stage festival in Toronto, it was a 41/2 hour epic with no epicenter. Peripheral characters talked about Wright. His widow donned his coat. But no actor had yet been found to portray on stage the father of organic architecture. Now, the show that underwhelmed Toronto has been thoroughly rewritten, with juicy biographical details added, and the playing time cut to less than three hours (with intermissions). Wright is represented by British actor Tony Guilfoyle, a silver-haired Paul McCartney type with wonderfully understated delivery and a credible American accent.

The link between Wright and Greek-Armenian guru Georgi Gurdjieff, who counted Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, among his disciples, now seems more integral to the work, as does his relationship with his wife (Lise Roy).

The devil, too, looms larger, not to mention flamboyantly naked. The struggle between the genius and his demon is echoed by an invigorating acting match between the players who portray them.

For openers, Rodrigue Proteau, a dance-actor long associated with Carbone 14, emerges from behind a drawing board, wearing nothing but demonic horns. He slips on to Guilfoyle’s lap, only to be put in his place by the drop of a hat to his crotch. Guilfoyle wins the round, as Wright ultimately wins back his soul. But the ubiquitous Proteau returns as Gurdjieff, Lenin and a waiter, ever ready to steal a scene. He cuts his most striking figure as the growling devil in the desert puffing on two fistfuls of cigarettes - the modern smoker demonized.

What Wright wants from the devil is prolonged youth. What he gets is three decades of renewed creativity after the age of 60. The devil isn’t the only one who wants his soul. Herbert Johnson of Johnson’s Wax, and every other corporate hustler of the time, knows a Frank Lloyd Wright building is the ultimate status symbol. As Johnson, the fast-talking Thaddeus Phillips stops the show by tap-dancing his dictation to his secretary Marge (Kevin McCoy). He also shines in the dinner scene in which Wright’s disciples deftly assemble a building model out of wine glasses and plates.

Rick Miller (of McHomer fame) gives a strong performance as son-in-law and fellow architect Wes Peters, who never quite escapes the Wright family web after his wife, Sveltana (Catherine Martin), dies.

The closing disco scene makes more sense than before as Peters and fellow disciple Jacques L’Allier (Jean-François Blanchard) loosen up their limbs with Gurdjieff spiritual-exercise moves and pass them on until the whole crowd is doing geometric dance. Meanwhile, the credits roll and the Wright-Gurdjieff legacy lives on.

This sweeping, thought-provoking piece is performed almost entirely in English with French subtitles. But a couple of second-act Paris scenes are in French only, without translation. After Montreal, the next stop is Chicago, where Wright once ruled supreme.

THEATER REVIEW; 'The Muse and Architect as One, Propagating Immortal Forms'
Published: April 23, 1998, Thursday

After the pallbearers lay the coffin of Frank Lloyd Wright on the rain-soaked earth in ''Geometry of Miracles,'' Robert Lepage's somber meditation on the events and ideas that informed the work of the visionary architect, Wright's widow, Olgivanna, steps forward for what one might assume will be the requisite parting gesture.Well, there is a gesture, although not the expected one: Olgivanna, played by Marie Brassard, pries open the lid, reaches in and collects the corpse's hat, cane and overcoat, which she drapes over her shoulders, and walks away.

It's a bizarre way to run a funeral, but absolutely par for the course for Mr. Lepage, the French-Canadian stage director and performance artist whose specialty, demonstrated in past productions like ''The Seven Streams of the River Ota,'' is the heart-stopping visual stroke. In this instance, the violation of a coffin is not meant so much to shock as to stake a claim, to underline the mystical connection between a husband and wife, artist and acolyte, prophet and true believer. The connection transcends death, and to make it even plainer Mr. Lepage, in flashback, has Ms. Brassard play both the wife and, complete with overcoat, the architect himself.''Geometry of Miracles,'' which had its world premiere here at the 1998 du Maurier World Stage Festival, an 18-day exhibition of works from as far away as Ireland and Lithuania, is the hugely ambitious Mr. Lepage's latest big-canvas experiment in bringing a complex visual esthetic to the world of ideas. The 3-hour-and-45-minute work, created with the members of his Quebec City troupe, Ex Machina, as well as frequent collaborators like Ms. Brassard and Carl Fillion, the set designer, is another installment in what one might call the Cirque de Lepage, a veritable three-ring circus of images and effects that could only have been assembled in hallucinations if not constructed in Ex Machina's workshops.

For all its scope and seriousness, however, the version of ''Geometry'' that Mr. Lepage unveiled here seems very much a work in development. Though never dull -- Mr. Lepage has an apparent immunity to the commonplace -- the production, at this juncture, drifts off on so many tangents that it tends to lose its sense of direction, like a tourist who wanders off the main road for a bit of sightseeing one too many times. As a result, it's a bit of a chore to sit through. Challenging intellectuality is one thing; a shapeless narrative that flirts with incoherence is quite another.

It's not hard to see why this might have happened. Ex Machina's improvisatory style, encouraging the entire cast to develop the text, contributes to a sense of play writing by consensus. For another thing, vivid dialogue doesn't seem to be of paramount concern to Mr. Lepage and his troupe.

As with large sections of his stirring ''Seven Streams of the River Ota,'' performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the fall of 1996, ''Geometry'' displays a lot less polish in the verbal elements than the visual. Characters often utter lines that sound as if they have been copied down from the pages of Kahlil Gibran. For instance: ''Learn to see the invisible. Then perhaps you will find immortality.''

In ''Ota,'' a seven-hour exploration of the cataclysms, from atomic warfare to AIDS, that have preoccupied the world in the second half of the 20th century, the underwritten dialogue could be overlooked because the events depicted were globally shared experiences, more easily digested in striking tableaux. The terrain of ''Geometry,'' however, is much less familiar and the tale considerably more cerebral, the kind of rich vein of intellectual history better suited to a master manipulator of syntax, like Tom Stoppard.

Still, one hopes Mr. Lepage's new production, which he is taking on a tour of Europe, will continue to evolve. In ''Geometry,'' he deals not only with the ascendancy of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the years in which he refined his organic architectural style in major commissions like the Johnson Wax building and the Guggenheim Museum, but also with an exploration of the nature of collaborative art and the mysteries in the passage of knowledge from teacher to pupil. Mr. Lepage's touchstone for all of this is Olgivanna, a Yugoslav-born dancer who became Wright's third wife in 1928 and deeply influenced his work.

As the title implies, ''Geometry of Miracles'' is obsessed with shapes and patterns, from the prehistoric cave drawings at Lascaux to the stylized exercises of the 20th-century philosopher and human-potential guru G. I. Gurdjieff, of whom Olgivanna was a disciple.

The theatrical manifestations are often satisfying: the notion of memory, for instance, represented by a giant, revolving eye. And there is intelligence in the historical inventions: the onslaught of the Great Depression, captured in the fading voices of stockbrokers; a Johnson Wax executive tap-dancing his dictation to a secretary seated at a silent typewriter.

But the characters who file through this panorama are mere shadows on the theater walls, and the patterns ''Geometry'' plays with remain rather formless, as if viewed from too close or, maybe, too far away. Architects allow the casual observer to find order in the arrangements of triangles and parallelograms; Mr. Lepage's production at present permits no such useful leap.


By Robert Lepage, in collaboration with the performers. Directed by Mr. Lepage. Assistants to the director, Bruno Bazin and Lise Castonguay; sets by Carl Fillion; costumes and wigs by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt; lighting by Eric Fauque; image design by Jacques Collin and Carl Fillion. Presented by Ex Machina. Part of the du Maurier World Stage Festival. At Premiere Dance Theater, Harborfront Center, Toronto, Canada.

WITH: Tea Alagic, Daniel Belanger, Jean-Francois Blanchard, Marie Brassard, Denis Gaudreault, Anthony Howell, Kevin McCoy, Thaddeus Phillips, Rodrigue Proteau and Catherine Tardif.

Ex Machina: Geometry of Miracles

Inspiration: The American Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 - 1959) was an extremely prominent architect of Welsh origin. He worked as an interior designer, writer, and educator as well as his architectural work. He could be described as incredibly organic in the way he worked so a lot of his projects and ideas could be seen as new and innovative. Frank Lloyd Wright’s life was a huge inspiration for Geometry of Miracles. The show makes many references to his work including the Johnson Wax Building and the Guggenheim Museum.

The life and times of Frank Lloyd Wright are focused on within the production, including his second wife Olgivanna. Concerning Olgivanna the production looks at how her thought process may have been influenced by the Russian-born Gurdjieff, a philosopher type character of the time.

Subject Matter: This production really focuses on the individuality one can bring to their work and the process in which they plan, devise and create the end result. It really hones in on the individual character’s identity and what gives them reason to perform their actions. Like many of the Ex Machina productions Geometry of Miracles is made of many different media including film projection, lighting, sound, music and a choreographed ensemble. He has pushed the boundaries of the use of media and uses innovative ideas which amaze the audiences.

Robert Lepage enthused local theatre risk-takers with more than his stunning visual tableaux. His avant-garde work showcased a different but thrilling way of making theatre while validating area innovators on many levels: in the creation of the art, in the broadening of programming and by showing the flexible possibilities of the form. Its wowed audiences with its poetic images, architectural suggestions and exultant music. The distinctive hallmark of Lepage’s creations is their collaborative shape, which encompasses all aspects of theatre. His experiences with improvisational acting taught him the necessity of having a peripheral consciousness that allows writing acting, set design and stage direction to evolve ‘globally’.

Posted by Marina Walker and Elishia Chave

The Busker’s Opera (2004)

The Busker’s Opera

Robert Lepage has directing, scenic artistic, playwriting, acting and film directing experience. He was born in Quebec in 1957 and formed ex-machina in 1993. Ex-machina is a company composed of actors, writers, set designers, technicians, opera singers, puppeteers, computer graphic designers, video artists, film producers, contortionists and musicians. Everyone from any background is welcome to share their experience and knowledge with the company.

The Busker’s opera was a new production for ex-machina. They adventured themselves into musical theatre by creating a play where a group of musicians, DJs and singers come together to put on the show. It was first performed in February 2004 at the Spectrum de Montréal as part of the Montreal High Lights Festival. In this play the company decided to ridicule foreign-language opera by subtitling the songs on a moving screen that also was used to film close-ups of the singers showing their facial expressions. This allowed all spectators to be a part of this musical experience. Another interesting technique in The Busker’s Opera is the dual role every performer had to take on. Indeed all performers in this play had to juggle between playing an instrument and singing up front.

Information and images can be found on the La Caserne website:

Posted by Steffi Wallis-Tayler, Lauren Green and Tamsin Newlands

1984 (2005)

'Ex Machina is getting ready for 1984‘s revival in Milan. Seven performances will be shown at the Teatro alla Scala beginning May 2. Ian Greenlaw, Nancy Gustafson and Iride Martinez will be sharing the stage as leads under the direction of famous conductor Maestro Lorin Maazel.

George Orwell’s depiction of the dictatorship of Oceania lends itself well to theatre. Crammed with surveillance cameras and telescreens, corrupted by denunciation and lies, Orwell’s universe inspired a set that uses transparency and movement, as well as a large electronic apparatus, to provide constant surveillance.

The scene opens at the Ministry of Truth, where the staff have gathered to express their hatred towards the enemy of the State. Winston Smith’s fury, however, is not directed at Eastasia, the enemy continent, but at Big Brother himself. As a Ministry employee, Winston is a disillusioned witness to the falsifying of history in favour of the one-party State. He keeps a journal, a deeply subversive act, and he and his colleague Julia become lovers, also forbidden. Is another world possible? Can the dictatorship be overthrown? Together they nourish this utopian hope in a secret hideout in the Proles’ neighbourhood, where they believe the telescreens cannot spy on them - until Big Brother destroys their dream. They are separated and tortured, and each finally denounces the other. Deadened by Victory gin and electric shocks, Julia and Winston are reintegrated into society. The opera ends with Winston singing of his love for Big Brother.

Text posted by Mica Lawrence and pictures posted by Pille Lõhmus

The Andersen Project (2005)

A Review - ‘The Andersen Project’

It is seldom that you get to see a master actor, and a master creator, at the top of his or her form. Robert Lepage's The Andersen Project is one such show.

This account of Frederic, the Canadian pop lyricist brought to Paris to write a libretto inspired by one of the darker fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson is a deeply human story that never strikes a false note.

There are plenty of laughs, with a rapid-fire string of European and Atlantic arts in-jokes that almost, but not quite, descend to a stand-up routine. You are, however, always laughing with Lepage, never at him.

This is a one-man show, in the sense that Lepage plays not only the would-be librettist, seeking professional and personal validation, but also all of the other characters, from Arnaud, the conniving but troubled administrator of the Paris Opera, to the Dryad of Anderson's tale. Yet there's a long list of technical credits, from the puppeteer who produces a wonderfully believable mutt out of thin air to the "horse cart-maker", and these are well deserved. Every aspect of The Andersen Project from the supra-realist video backdrops to the elaborate but designerista set, has been polished to almost eerie perfection.

Often in one-person productions, each individual character is seen in one dimension; it is the only way many actors can manage all those different roles. Yet Lepage's characters are fully rounded. So the Opera director, that Machievellian master of arts politics, morphs quite naturally into a fond father reading a sad bedtime story (Anderson's other contribution to the show, The Shadow) to a beloved daughter, a daughter he fears he is about to lose, along with his wife.

I did initially doubt Lepage's Dryad - she seemed too stiff, too thick, yet when you think about it, even an ethereal being who has spent her life cramped within one small walnut tree is going to move awkwardly, slowly, when suddenly unleashed for one magic day on the streets of Paris and amidst the World Fair of 1855 that inspired Andersen.

This is a production like a matrioshka doll; both character and themes are exposed by the delicate peeling of fine layers. Each small action and omission will come to have meaning; each betrayal, each lie, each Fall will claim its price in time. Even an apparent joke, such as the rope that features ridiculously in a solemn commentary in the museum that commemorates Denmark's greatest national figure, turns out to have far more significance than any in the audience might have imagined.

Written by Natalie Bennett and published on January 30, 2006 (

The following extract is from the LCSD website (Leisure and Cultural Services Department) promoting arts and culture in Hong Kong

The Andersen Project - A Fairy-tale for Adults

The playwright appears on stage and announces to the audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, the show tonight is cancelled!" But that's only the beginning of the story…

Having come to Paris at the behest of L'Opera de Paris, which has commissioned him to write the libretto for a children's opera based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, a Quebecois songwriter settles down in a friend's apartment. During his stay, he meets the Opera's manager, a man with some odd and unusual likings, a graffiti artist of North African descent, as well as a dog who could be guiding the tale along its way. And even Hans Christian Andersen comes out from the dream.

Freely inspired by two stories by Andersen, The Dryad and The Shadow and from anecdotes drawn from the famed Danish author's Parisian travels, The Andersen Project calls on some of Lepage's recurring themes: the confrontation of romanticism and modernism, of recognized and underground art forms, between past and present.

However, in this solo work, he also explores more troubling territories: questions about sexual identity, unfulfilled fantasies and a thirst for recognition and fame that are drawn from Andersen's life and writings, only to serve as a filigree to the modern tale.

The production toured extensively in Canada, Denmark, France, Australia, U.K., Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, Korea and Taiwan and received critical acclaims since its premiere in 2005.

Yves Jacques took the solo role in some more recent versions of the production, for example in the Kwai Tsing Theatre in June 2008.] Yves Jacques was born in Quebec, Canada, in 1956. In The Andersen Project, Yves Jacques is the virtuoso actor who plays the songwriter from Quebec, the manager of L'Opera de Paris and the Moroccan immigrant to Paris all in one, metamorphosing easily and convincingly from one character to another as he takes on different looks, accents and a different age. He has made this one man show a triumph that easily captures every heart in the audience.

Posted by Leanda Hatten and Lily Springer

The Far Side of the Moon (2000)

A of review The Far Side of the Moon, performed at the Dublin Theatre Festival in the O'Reilly Theatre, September 30 - October 9, 2003

First performed at Le Theatre du Trident in Quebec in 2000 and touring ever since, Robert Lepage’s The Far Side of the Moon is a spellbinding piece which takes its audience on many journeys. Though there are no allusions to Stanley Kubrick, the play is an odyssey in space, a voyage across spiritual and emotional voids in the lives of two fortysomething Canadian brothers following the death of their mother. The distances between them are explored metaphorically through the playwright’s reference to the space race of the 1950s and ‘60s, with an emphasis on the largely unheralded Soviet side.

This subject is the particular obsession of Philippe, the elder of the two brothers and principal character in the story. As Lepage mischievously remarks in the opening scenes, the American predilection to refer to the dark side of the moon as ‘disfigured’ may have as much to do with the fact that the craters which mark its surface are all named after great Russian artists and scientists. This play is about the dreams and disappointments represented by such ‘disfigurements’ as they are visible in the lives of these two men facing the empty spaces in their adult lives.

Poignant, funny, endlessly inventive on a technical level, The Far Side of the Moon is an affecting study of human emotions grounded in a world filled with frustrated aspiration. Philippe is driven by a longing for something other and more which can connect him with something greater (especially now that his mother has died), a desire exemplified by his obsession with the SETI program. Delivering a doctoral thesis presentation in the opening scenes, he observes that the desire to explore outer space was driven more by narcissism than curiosity, a reflection upon human relationships which is self-consciously applied to his view of his own life.

The script has been written with a clear ear for naturalistic rhythms, but is not limited in the richness or depth of its content. Lepage takes a relatively simple set of reference points and constructs an insightful and moving drama around them, and though the metaphoric linkages between them are far from subtle, they work. The transitions between character drama and documentary exposition are not obtrusive, especially notable given that ‘naturalism’ is a relative term in the theatrical space created by Lepage and his team of collaborators in the Ex Machina company. The set, designed by Lepage but pooling the resources of Ex Machina, is a remarkable creation. Masked into a letterbox shape which contributes to the ‘cinematic’ look of the production, the stage space is as alive with movement and meaning as the script. A horizontal divider comprised of individual sliding panels mirrored on one side is used to create a variety of locales, including rooms, wardrobes, an elevator, lecture theatres, an airplane interior and pretty much anything it needs to. This divider also revolves and can even be raised up to create different ceilings. When matched up with several conveyor belts and a significant porthole which serves as a washing machine door in the opening scene, only to morph into a space capsule and metaphorical birth passage, this set seems truly capable of delivering meaning ‘out of the machine’. Evidently expensive and requiring precise timing and co-ordination of the multimedia projection also used to illustrate the action, it would all mean nothing were each of its increasingly impressive convolutions not inextricably bound to the dramatic core.

This revolving, evolving, virtually living space is anchored at all times by lone actor Yves Jacques. His is a performance of exquisite delicacy, capturing the disconnection, alienation, and loneliness of postmodern life though posture, gesture, and intonation every bit as breathtaking as anything the set does. The actor plays several characters, all of whom are cut off from one another in space and in emotion, and his handling of the many scenes of conversation between them, especially on the telephone, or, in one case, in a bar where Philippe awaits famous Russian cosmonaut Alexi Leonov, is extremely skilful. The audience needs only to hear one half of the conversation to grasp the complexities and nuances of human communication. There are one or two genuinely heartbreaking scenes, though there are others which are purely ‘poetic’ in which Jacques gets to demonstrate his physical dexterity and grace. The finale in particular, in which the actor does a virtual space walk with the aid of a mirrored ceiling at an acute angle and furniture resting on the floor, is a sublime fusion of performance, direction and set design.

Dublin, October 2, 2003 - Harvey O'Brien

Posted by Georgia Robson and Morag Ilses

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Readings for next weeks class

The reading from ‘Connecting Flights’ (a collection of interviews with Lepage by Quebec journalist Remy Charest) is available in the trays just outside the main office. Please ensure you have read this extract before the next class as it will be discussed.

The second article that I’ve asked you to read, ‘Making Theatre’ (on the Newcastle University website), is available online. Simply click on the following link:

I hope you are having an inspiring first week at University and look forward to seeing you all on Monday,


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Welcome to the Exmachina blog...

The purpose of this site is to enable us to communicate with each other and share our research on the methodologies of the company over the course of the first term. This site will be a valuable way of compiling our thoughts and sharing ideas for the performance we will stage at the end of term.

Everyone's contribution to the blog is vital, and it will be necessary to check the site on a regular basis for updates. All posts will be moderated by myself and any posts that are considered inappropriate, irrelevant or duplicates of other posts will NOT be published. The official Exmachina / Robert Lepage site can be viewed at: