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 : * *

We are Star Dust Hurtling Through Space -Cirque Du Soleil – TOTEM – Royal Albert Hall – Review


The circus is in town and so three thousand of us made the trip last night to the Big Top that is the Royal Albert Hall to witness their new production, TOTEM. As mentioned previously this was my first time seeing the Cirque Du Soleil live, despite the fact I’ve been aware and admired the Cirque Du Soleil’s work since the mid 90’s, when I saw a video of their Saltimbanco production.

Along with the CdS brand this production also has the added bonus of being written and directed by the creative visionary that is Robert Lepage.  So my expectations were running high.

The theme for this production as you can see from the picture above is the evolution of mankind, which is a fascinating and amazing story in and of itself, could it be told by jugglers, acrobats, clowns and other acts I wondered? As we took our seats, several of the cast were mingling and interacting with the audience, which as anyone that reads my blog regularly will know, I think is a really good thing. The ringmaster character had a wonderful top hat that contained a really powerful light which he used to spotlight the crowd and was visually striking and a very clever idea, that would be utilised in the show.

The lights dimmed and we were off on our journey. What follows is a two and a half hour spectacular, that is honestly hard to put into words, I’ll try, but they really won’t do justice to the visual, audio and theatrical display.

“TOTEM is about life. The life that drives us; fragile at birth yet strong by nature.” Guy Laliberte, founder of CdS says in the programme. As I witnessed what looked like the impossible I was caught up in joy and wonder that is human existence. ALL the acts are brilliant but for me the highlights were;

The Tsodikova Sisters

The Tsodikova sisters foot juggling, where they juggled what looked like cloaks, individually then between them, then with one of them balancing on the other. How they kept their own balance while keeping their cloaks spinning was incredible. The costumes and design took this to another level though, this was a visual recreating of the big bang, from which we all came , as the programme states, “Born of chaos…From the mineral depths, energy and beauty emerge.” This routine was both energetic and beautiful, as are the Tsodikova sisters!

Ante Ursic and his batons-du-diable


Ante Ursic did a passionte flamenco styled devil stick routine, with the poise and dynamism of a matador. One man, and three sticks kept us enthralled as they spun, flipped and defied gravity.

Greg Kennedy and his atoms in perpetual motion

Greg Kennedy played a scientist character throughout the show. Then in Act 2 he steps inside his laboratory and while the band accompany him by playing on the test tubes and pipes, he steps inside a giant conic vase and starts juggling balls that light up/change colour whilst whizzing around the cone. The scientist watching and manipulating the atoms was such a clever and innovative routine, and a theatrical vision I’ll remember forever.

See the world from new heights, and awaken to love

Rosalie Ducharme and Louis-David Simoneau, gave a beautifully trapeze routine, that was incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen. Throughout it showed the trials and exhilaration of love and romance. Now I know that’ll sound strange, a trapeze act show that?? YES! I was genuinely moved by it.

Don't try this at home, with a few planks and some mates.

Finally, the show closed with a Russian troupe of flyers. I’ve always wanted to see this feat performed live as I’d seen it on TV when I was a boy and literally my jaw fell open then. Seeing it live now had the same effect, as they leapt, spun and flew through the air and then landed on a thin plank. As Robert Lepage says in the programme, “Out natural curiosity calls us ever upwards – we seem possessed by the desire to fly.” Well these performers can fly.

The above simply scratches the surface, they are all accompanied by a fabulous score, stunning costumes and make up that adds to a total theatrical package. ALL of the performers are top of their game and the creative team with Lepage at the helm have created a piece of theatre that celebrates the amazing fact that we’ve come from star-dust, evolved and can do some pretty amazing things. It also leaves one filled with a passion and desire to see humankind move onwards and upwards.

I left the Royal Albert Hall filled with a buzz, joy and a greater appreciation for this crazy thing we call life. As we whizz through space, we are all part of this evolutionary journey, and will forever continue to be, as we return to the star-dust as it continues ever onwards.

Christmas has come early this year!

1 Comment


Christmas has come early for me this year. My wife let me know what my Christmas present would be and I’m EXCEEDINGLY excited.

I have to wait until January 2011 but it will be well worth the wait – we’re off to see Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall.

I’ve only ever seen Cirque du Soleil on video before and so to see it live will be a fabulous experience. I’m particularly looking forward to this production as its theme is “A fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind” and it’ll be interesting to see how they weave that throughout the production.

Having done a bit more research on it since I found out we were going, I’m even more excited as the creator and director is none other than the genius that is Robert Lepage! I’m a huge admirer of his work and I was fortunate to attend a lecture by him at my college (Rose Bruford) a few years ago which was amazing. See here for a bit more info about his involvement with the production.

A review will follow on here, but I imagine the experience will be hard to put into words. As you can see from the trailer video:

Roll on January!