Robert Lepage on shifting continents. Neil Bartlett on erotic architecture, Arnold Wesker on single women and Elizabeth MacLennan on political censorship.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 62 CABARET 65 DANCE 65
V NEW PLAY
Celtic soil brother
Mark Fisher talks to innovative director ROBERT LEPAGE
about an exciting new
‘There‘s this theory that between you and a person you want to meet. there are a maximum of I five people.‘ says French Canadian director I Robert Lepage. ‘If you want to write a letter to the Pope or to the Queen or to Rod Stewart or to Elton John and you don‘t know them. there‘s a maximum of five people — it‘s just that you don‘t know who to use. Sometimes you might only
need two people.‘
Lepage clearly isn‘t including the providential hand ofthe press officer in his equation. I‘ve come face to face with this star ofJesus of Montreal by means ofjust one other person.
Spooky or what?
Lepage has taken up temporary residence in Glasgow from his native Quebec City. to mount the latest version of Tectonic Plates, a devised performance which in Canada has been staged in venues as unlikely as a disused ice-rink. a derelict station and an old synagogue. Now integrating ‘Celtic‘ actors — three Scots. two Welsh — into the production. it continues the trend by moving into Clasgow's ()ld Transport Museum. the
Puppetry used to be in a similar category to security blankets. Once you got to a certain age, it was embarrassing to be associated with it. A certain TV series has gone a long way to change that and the satirical potential of puppetry has been rediscovered. lan Turbitt, a man who has spent most at his career presenting Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel et al, is anxious to make the most at this new climate. Although Reynard the Fox is a story which has graced children's puppet theatres, Turbitt leels that his ‘adult' version is truer to the original. ‘A lot at lolk think at Reynard as the
character from Aesop; the tax that thinks he's cunning and gets away with being fly and clever most of the time, but occasionally gets his come-uppance. Reynard the Fox isn‘t like that. He's anarchic, he always wins. lie is the arch-survivor.‘
‘The text i'm using torthe piece is from the second book ever printed by Caxton. The story goes way back to the 11th century where the tax is seen as being the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It you look at old medieval book carvings, priests are printed as taxes and they preach to geese. But at the same time, with Reynard, there‘s a goose hanging dead from his back. So he's into trickery. He's preaching to these people, but he's into having his evil way with them as well.‘
In spite oi the theatrical potential oi such a tale, Turbltt acknowledges that
' Robert Lepage. who played Pontius Pilate in ‘Jesus of Montreal‘, 1 directs his mountain moving ‘Tectonic Pates'.
Tectonic plates, ifyou‘ve forgotten your
geography lessons. are the ever-shifting
geological masses that give rise to continental a drift. Taking this concept as its central metaphor. the play looks at movement, collision. combination and disintegration. not only on a global scale. but also on a social and personal level. "l‘he main theme of the play is about drifting.’ says Lepage. ‘Drifting does not only mean being lost. it also means colliding into other drifters. it also meansover-lapping and . separation. It‘s about breaking up, it's about getting together. ()n a personal level it can be ‘
meeting somebody and on a cultural level it could
be one culture meeting another. It can also be a movement that is happening inside one
character. We scale it down to a psychological i
Reynard the Fox, adultstyle
producing a puppet show for adults still
poses box-office risks. Many continentals would find this
unthinkable as they have enjoyed an unbroken tradition of puppetry as an art torm. Turbitt has a theory as to why Scotland has disregarded the genre. ‘Calvinism put paid to a lot of the joy of theatre and puppetry. Things became iartoo pragmatic and the whole country is still to a great degree I
level and then up to a big. universal level.‘
Set in Venice. a city architecturally frozen in time but also sinking because ofcontinental movement, Tectonic Plates explores the influence ofdifferent generations upon each other. The first half is set in Jim Morrison-era 60s when there was a fascination with the 19th century Romantics, while the second halfcomes up to date. but refers back to the Mk. ‘We‘ve tried to build it in a geological way.‘ says Lepage. ‘You have things going on at the surface. but to understand it. you must have things going on at the second and third layers. Characters disappear for ten years and then emerge again in a completely different environment.‘
Each new version of the show uses indigenous performers who contribute to its shape and emphasis. The five Celts in this production were drawn from a workshop in January and selected as much for their experience ofwriting and directing as acting. ‘lt‘s quite a tight-knitted plot,‘ explains Lepage. ‘and as we add collaborators from different countries they bring theirown input. It makes it more credible as we go on, because the more pe0ple with different cultural identities there are. the more interesting. the more edible, this big pizza becomes. Something new that has appeared in the show since the Celts got involved is the international preoccupation. When we had the workshops, we would be talking about relationships. family things, but the Celts would talk about what Australia is doing to its environment or what horrible things are going on in South America. In Canada there are TV shows for that! For us, it obliges us to continue to do what we are doing, but with a broader view of the world. Also the Celts are bringing in an incredible sense ofhumour.‘
Tectonic Plates is at Tramway. Glasgow, 23 Nov—1 Dec, 8pm.
aliected by that kind of reasoning. The big theme in Reynard is that he deals very directly with people in church and political government who are high-handed and greedy. So it's a piece which is very much alter my own heart. Having come through a fundamental laith system myself and having seen a lot of the dishonesty, it's a breath of fresh air tor me to do this piece. i suppose Reynard is the part at our natures that we know exists, we always want to getaway with, but we don't always admitto. Something deep inside you, something subliminal, identities with that. But I hate analysing these things, it's entertainment.‘ (Philip Parr)
, Beynard The Fox is at The Netherbow
Arts Centre, Edinburgh, 28 Nov-1 Dec
at 8pm. The show is not suitable tor children.
i l i
The List 23 November— 0 December 1990 57