Playing Cards 1 : SPADES – Robert Lepage – The Roundhouse



The last play I saw by Robert Lepage (The Blue Dragon) I described as “theatrical perfection” . So my expectations were running high. I was especially intrigued by the idea of a series of plays based on the suits of cards, as I’ve been a professional conjurer for the last 10 years and I was keen to see a play drawing on my 52 friends for inspiration.

This series has been commissioned by the 360° Network ( a worldwide group of 360° theatrical spaces)  and so we are treated to a 360° viewing of the Lepage magic.

Yet despite all its technical wizardry and moments that did touch me, this play felt clunky and contrived on too many occasions. The anti-war characters felt bolted on rather than an organic part of the story.

360° version of a Vegas gaming room

2 characters/stories stood out for me; the gambling addict – his scene at Gamblers Anonymous was extremely powerful. As was the illegal immigrant house maid’s dilemma at needing to find a doctor.

Ironically these two scenes required no fancy staging, yet the rest of play is a dazzling whirligig of theatrical tricks and illusions, which for me detracted from the stories being told. A few musical numbers linked with Vegas /cards just didn’t work and to my mind were obviously added so the central stage area could be set. I expect better from the master of theatrical magic and segues.

Now a “bad” Lepage play is still better than other theatrical work out there. So if you’ve never seen any of Lepage’s work it’s worth going to see, just to see his style, but be aware this is nowhere near the pinnacles he can reach.

Maybe he’s finding his feet with the 360° concept. I look forward to the next suit in the pack and hope it relies less on the whistles and bells and keeps us connected via the humanity on stage.

At the end there were more technicians on stage being applauded than actors, therein lies the problem with this piece for me.

STARS : * *

2 thoughts on “Playing Cards 1 : SPADES – Robert Lepage – The Roundhouse

  1. I have no problems with the length of it, the odd moments, but a coherent, sensible, multi-layered plot and meaning – I do require. No idea why we had to see the Danish soldier raped in minute 2 of this show (what did THAT mean…?), no idea why the maid was angry with the bellboy, no idea why the “cowboy” drugged out the couple or harassed the British gambler, first saving him, then killing him (?). Where is war in all of that? String theory? Healthcare and menopause…?

    What does this all mean, and why technically not making sure we get what he intended to say?

    In the preview the translation broke down twice and there was no attempt to let us see (by flicking them quickly) what lines we missed, so in my show unless you spoke French or Spanish – you were lost.

    Shame. And I despise the Roundhouse for not caring about tehir audience.

    BTW, the show was cancelled last night – announcing it to the public an hour after curtain call. Couldn’t somebody find out the fault during the day?! Abysmal.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for the comment,

    that’s really not on to cancel the show at such short notice – but as the technicial gizmos are what makes up the show, if they’re not working there is no show. Sad really as Lepage seems to have lost focus on what makes theatre work.

    Agree with the comments on the translations, my French is passable, but I was left clueless during the Spanish scenes when the subtitles failed to work. I ‘d also argue why on earth had they failed? Surely that’s the LEAST complicated thing technically in the show?

    It seems most are panning the show, this is a particualrly damning but entertaining review:–First-night-review-The-Roundhouse-London.html

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