Robert LePage’s “The Blue Dragon”

Last Thursday I saw “The Blue Dragon”, a play written and directed by Quebecois theatrical maestro Robert Lepage. He’s among the most reknowned living theatre artists in the country and abroad, famous for designing wondrous, whimsical theatre experiences.

A sequel to his “Dragons’ Trilogy”, “The Blue Dragon” tells the story of a Montreal artist and gallery owner living through his middle age in China. He’s got a promising young Chinese artist for a girlfriend, and lives a life of quiet sparseness. This life is thrown into flux by the arrival of Claire, an old flame, who hopes to adopt a baby as a single mother.

But don’t go see this play for the plot. As Colin Thomas puts it, “the narrative is less than complex and it’s riddled with holes”. Nor for the themes–Lepage offers some pedestrian ideas about interationalization and middle age. Go for the stage spectacle, which (unless you’ve already seen a Lepage production or his excellent work on Peter Gabriel’s tours), is like no play you’ve ever seen before.

Working with set designer Michel Gauthier, Lepage creates a playful, contemporary production. This is a 21st century theatre, that acknowledges the rise of film and television. For example, early scene changes happen, literally, in a instant. There’s a sound queue, the lighting changes and it’s later. Later, we see Lepage’s mastery as he plays with all sorts of visual devices on-stage. One scene is played out in silent silhouette. Another happens three times with a slightly different outcome. Another captures the energy of a bike ride through the busy streets of Beijing.

Watching the play, you enter into this perfectly-crafted yet delightfully unpredictable Lepage’s world. I’m struggling to do the play justice, so perhaps this ‘trailer’ will help:

I was pleased to get a chance to see the new The Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts in the Woodward’s complex. It’s a beautiful space (and, if you’re listening SFU, I’d love a tour).

It’s a pity that the story of “The Blue Dragon” doesn’t match its visuals, but I can’t imagine that any theatre-goer would leave the show disappointed.

“The Blue Dragon” runs through February 27. Get tickets here.

A Footnote on Disclosure

I’m on the media list of a few Vancouver theatres now, and I’m hoping to write more reviews on this site. It occurs to me that I’ve never been explicit about how I disclose when I’ve received tickets to something for free, and when I’ve paid for an event.

My standard practice is to say something like “I was invited to the opening night…” (as with “Tesla”). Though I missed doing that for my recent “Beyond Eden” review. If I don’t mention something along those lines, assume I paid for the event myself. Which I did in the case of “The Blue Dragon”, incidentally.

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