Monday, March 5, 2012

This Blue Dragon speaks in tongues

In watching Robert LePage's The Blue Dragon (the show has just closed at the Princess of Wales theatre) I was struck by the audience's reaction within the first few minutes of the play.

I knew nothing of the play and just went. I have not seen any of the previous Dragon Trilogy either. So, there I am, in the dark, the actors start talking to each other in a seamless Quebecois french or Joual and everyone starts laughing along not missing a beat. Sure, the way the stage has been designed, with a split double layer, it allows for surtitles to translate, but this audience was clearly bilingual. Ok, we are in Canada, no biggie. Then as the play is set in Shanghai China, the main character meets his lover and they start to converse in Mandarin. I'm reading the translations, but I am also starting to think this is amazing that people are willing nay excited to see a play that is split between three languages- I cannot see people in the States cueing up for this sort of thing, nor in France either. This may be a distinctly Canadian delicacy, whether that is relevant....I can't say.

As always with LePage, there is a distinctive look and feel and I liked how low tech much of it was. The main character, Pierre LaMontagne departs from his old friend at the train station, gets on a bike and pedals, the bike is pulled across the stage, you get a sense he is in the country side, he gets off his bike and a tiny model train comes on to the stage and crosses it, he is seeing his friend off.

This is a simple iPad sketch of the protagonist standing with his bike ( don't look too closely, I mangled the thing! But my excuse is this homemade bandage on my thumb, you would be amazed how that throws everything off!!)

The play has closed as I mentioned, but the local House of Anansi Press has released a graphic novel version of the play. The play is stark with three characters in a love triangle and no additional people to get in the way; the graphic novel, on the other hand, is set up like a narrative in the real world in a bar, an airport, etc.

I've caught an interview of LePage talking to Jian Ghomeshi of CBC's Q. LePage talks about embracing technology including digital interactive projections. We can see this in the Blue Dragon, with snow which moves with the actors, but I was captivated by a low tech solution to the steps of the set being blanketed in snow: a white sheet is pulled on a string across the set and blankets the steps.  It is the mixture of high and low tech which makes LePage's productions interesting.

You can catch that interview here