Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 21 October 2016
887 by Robert Lepage, Oct 20, 2016 *****
THEATRE By Robert Lepage, Ex Machina, Melbourne
Arts Centre Melbourne, until Oct 22, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*****
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Oct 21, 2016, and later in print. KH
Robert Lepage in 887.
Robert Lepage’s solo show, 887, is simply remarkable.
inspired and mesmerising production that illuminates memory in startling ways, Lepage
seamlessly blends personal storytelling about his childhood in Quebec City in
the 1960s, with the political struggles of French-speaking Canadians during
delivers it all as a hypnotic and luminous, visual feast that transforms the
stage and transports the viewer to another time and place that is 887 Avenue
Murray, the apartment block in which the pre-adolescent Lepage lived with his
family in Quebec City.
the audience directly and with ease as he narrates this autobiographical
epic, beginning the
show with an unembellished, conversational chat on a dark and empty stage that
slowly metamorphoses as he introduces the residents of 887 Avenue Murray who
appear as if by magic as tiny people in their miniature apartments.
our gentle guide as he plunders his own memory, describing in compelling detail
his father, mother, siblings and grandmother and every other family in the
building at 887, including the classical pianist, the Irish Catholics, the
belligerent family across the hall and the unfaithful wife in the flat above.
navigates his path through these vivid, intimate recollections of his
childhood, he interweaves glimpses, commentaries and video fragments of the fraught
political and class battle that fractured 1960s Quebec.
centre of Lepage’s political commentary is the provocative, 1968 poem, Speak
White, by Quebecois poet, Michèle Lalonde, a difficult, 3-page piece that Lepage
must memorise and perform, and that challenges his adult memory and confronts his
views of the oppression of culture, race and language by jingoistic,
The set design
(Steve Blanchet) is staggering in its complexity and flexibility as Lepage,
like a magician, opens and closes myriad doors and panels to reveal each new
and intricate location: buildings, apartment interiors, kitchen, library, a bar
and his father’s taxi in both full size and miniature.
small video monitors embedded in the set display subtle or astounding imagery
(Félix Fradet-Faguy), while the stage is tinted with atmospheric and evocative lighting
ranges across time and issues, 887 feels like Lepage’s homage to his beleaguered
and humble father, a handsome, Quebecois man who came from poverty, married and
laboured as a taxi-driver to support his family.
The most poignant
moments in the narrative are the scenes when Lepage as a child waits for his
exhausted father to return home at night, and the final scene when the child comforts
his grieving father who sits in his taxi, mourning his own mother’s death.
theatrical experience with Robert Lepage will leave you gaping at its
virtuosity and intimacy, its visual lushness and elegant simplicity. Beg,
borrow or steal a ticket immediately.