Theatre Repere, the Quebecois company which (literally) made a splash at the Tramway last year with the epic Tectonic Plates, is back
. again with director Robert Lepage’s early magnum opus The Dragons Trilogy. Trevor Johnston reports.
Six hours of performance in Canadian-accented French, English and Chinese might sound like something of an endurance test for even the most dedicated follower of world theatrical fashion, but Theatre Repere manages to make the running time of Dragons Trilogy wing past with only the most ﬂeeting of longueurs. It should, however, be good at it by now, for since its initial inception in a Quebec warehouse some six years ago as a mere stripling of only two hours, this first Robert Lepage production to gain international recognition has since toured the world on an annual basis, growing more expansive yet coherent as it wound along its globe-trotting way. ‘I think the germ of the idea came about when Robert had been on tour across Canada with another show,‘ recalls co-writer and leading actress Marie Gignac who’s been an integral part of every performance to date, ‘and he became interested in the large Chinatowns we have in Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver. As French
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Canadians, it seemed important to look at our connection with these Oriental communities, because it not only told us about ourselves, but could deal with wider issues like the global relationship between East and West.‘
Utilising Theatre Repere’s trademark working
‘The piece is really about so manylhings. East and West, performers and audience, men and women, ying and yang. . . love and death. All that kind of stuff.’
method of beginning with certain images and developing outwards until a structure presents itself— leaving the actual dialogue the last element to be added — the company’s jumping-off point was something as prosaic as a parking lot. Not your common or garden NCP stretch of tarmac
however, but more specifically the waste ground that was left after the developers had gone away with what used to be Quebec‘s thriving Chinese enclave. ‘We thought ofeverything that lay underneath that stretch of sand. If you started digging you’d get to the old Chinatown, but if you kept on, maybe you’d come out on the other side ofthe world in China itself. Perhaps we could reach the Orient in every one of us.’
Although Gignac is not above the odd inscrutany mystic conversational ﬂourish, notably when explaining the mah fang-inspired colour-coding of the eponymous green, red and white dragons that provide the subheadings within the piece’s three acts, the show itself remains magically accessible and intriguineg uncategorial in virtually equal measures. Following the fortunes of two French Canadian women across the decades from their childhood in the 305, Dragons Trilogy‘s spectacular canvas traces the legacy of two mixed marriages through the generations right up until the 805. As in Tectonic Plates. much of the piece’s enchantment is derived from its unfailing facility to transform the everyday (fairy lights become a city at night, kicked over shoes a telling recreation of wartime), and indeed some may feel that Dragon‘s more concentrated exploration ofa single particular thematic area makes it a more coherent prospect than its illustrious Tramway predecessor.
‘There is actually evidence that Jeannie, the woman in the show who marries Mr Wong after her father loses her in a poker game, was a real individual,’ Gignac explains, a few hours before she‘s due to go on at Riverside Studios as part of the show’s London run. ‘But really that’s sort of coincidental, because the piece is really about so many things. East and West, performers and
audience, men and women, ying and yang. . . love 7
and death. All that kind of stuff.‘
The Dragons Trilogy, Tramway, Glasgow, Thurs 28 Nov—Sun 1 Dec.
l l L
nonm- State of play
From being enrolled in a ballet class at the age of six, Vyatcheslav Gordeyev auditioned fora place at the Moscow Ballet Academy. He was accepted with just one other, when 598 of the cream of the USSR’s young dancers were rejected. He went on to become the Bolshol’s principal dancer and when touring America was hailed as ‘the greatest dancer in the world today’. The world’s greatest dancer then left the world's greatest dance company to join the Russian State Ballet, which, while its name may suggest a glorious heritage, was founded in 1979. Now he
I is the company's artistic director and is l embarking on his first Ulftour.
In spite of the acclaim, and plenty of offers to follow in the footsteps of Barishnikov and Nureer by coming to the West, Gordeyev has remained loyally in Moscow throughout his career. ills company is similarly loyal to the choreography of ballet's old masters ratherthan modemists.
‘I think that ballet is the most joyful kind of art,’ says Gordeyev, ‘and I hope it really brings lightness and happiness to the lives of the people. Most full-length ballets are based on a fairytale and I think that from time to time people have to see themselves in an atmosphere of tairytales, because it is impossible for them to live it they are surrounded only by problems. This is maybe one of the reasons why there is
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The Russian State Ballet
still so much interest in ballet. And classical ballet, classical pieces are so superb, so perfect that they live longer than contemporary works.’
But, of course, Gordeyev lives and works in a city where the pace of change is probably more rapid than
anywhere else in the world. Rave Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s reforms done nothing to stimulate modern artists?
‘Wlth Glasnost there are many new
country,’ he says, ‘and there are many financial possibilities but, unfortunately, not so much creative activity. Because people now have more opportunity to move, to travel the world, now is a time when people can accumulate their impressions in order to express them in the future. But at the moment, there are no outstanding works of ballet in our country. I think maybe we are too busy with politics to worry about ballet.’ (Philip Parr)
The Russian State Ballet, Edinburgh Playhouse. Wed 27-Thurs 28 Nov.
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companies developing throughout the ;