15 August - 3 September
Aids Positive Underground Theatre Balloonatics (Ireland) Big Window Productions (USA) Clyde Unity Theatre
Freeway Stage a.“ \t Livestock 4"" '~ ~ .~ The man who can make theatre out of the movement Magic Bub ' of continents or the complexities of East-West J d. h SI USA ( ~ relationships, returns to Edinburgh for the world u lt Dan ( l l 54* remiere of a la about sex and the bomb Melanie Stewart Dance (USA) ( I p p y - ' - R» ROBERT LEPAGE speaks exclusrvely to Mark Fisher
Mr Boom ,. Talking Birds Theatre Company .' Theater YBY (Austria)
Theatre Cryptic 5 ,.
3phase - l f). Troopers m t " "* ‘ef‘z'.’ ‘a’xw‘
Universal Grinding Wheel (Ireland) '
Volcano Theatre I «a West lothian Youth Theatre
Wierszalin Theatre (Poland)
about The Seven Streams of the River Ora.
obert Lepage doesn’t think like the rest of us. The mind of the 36-year-old Canadian director doesn’t seem to follow the same linear thought patterns. Instead. his brain leaps from image to image. idea to idea. drawing connections between disparate objects. piecing together the strands of an inter- linked web of relationships that form his unorthodox view of the world. You notice this in conversation with him where suddenly you find yourself talking about pizzas or holograms as he reaches for metaphors to explain what he’s up to. And certainly you notice it in his work which resists the intellectual in favour of the organic, building rich. complex. even contradictory theatre that deals in abstract philosophical themes without ever seeming esoteric or obscure.
Take his latest piece. The Seven Streams of the River Ora. which has its world premiere in Edinburgh. You would expect a play that had as its central image the seven streams that run underneath Hiroshima to be a harrowing nuclear nightmare playing the drama of the bomb for all it was worth. Not so with Lepage. Sure. the devastating explosion comes into it, but so too does feudal China. aphrodisiacs. gunpowder, flash photography and Marguerite Duras.
‘Moving towards the 21st century, people are more and more , aware that the performing arts are going to take quite a turn 5 in the next decade.’
It is this kind of free-ﬂowing association of ideas that has characterised all his most ambitious work; performances of epic scope like The Dragons Trilogy which managed to link a waste-ground parking lot with the grand theme of Sino-Canadian relations, or Tectonic Plates which found a less-than-obvious connection between the idea that people in the Jim Morrison-era 60s were fascinated by 19th century Romantics and , the fact that Venice is sinking. ‘We’ve tried to build it in a geological ( way,’ Lepage told me about that show when I met him in 1990. ‘You l have things going on at the surface. but to understand it. you must have I things going on at the second and third layers. Characters disappear for ; ten years and then emerge again in a completely different environment.’ ( What’s odd is that when you see this stuff for real, it all makes perfect l sense. l
I suspect that a key reason for Lepage remaining a draw for big ) international audiences is that for all his expansive world view, he always comes back to his own, personal French-Canadian perspective. These days he is the darling of the festival circuit. in demand to direct Shakespeare, opera, anything, in the major capitals of his choice. Indeed, The Seven Streams of the River 01a is merely the first three hours of what will grow into a seven-hour production over the next three years in a string of British, European and, eventually, Japanese cities. In this context, it would be easy for Lepage to create vagrant pieces of theatre. lacking the roots to be called meaningful art, yet shimmering with an exotic gloss to appeal to the moneyed international theatregoer. But Lepage’s success is solid because however much he addresses global
’” ‘E’ :11 . l 9 1'" tre‘ Workshop
8 The List l2-l8 August 1994