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.
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 : * *