Robert Lepage superbly performs in this sequel to his 1985 breakthrough masterpiece The Dragons’ Trilogy, marking the return of that play’s central figure – artist Pierre Lamontagne – who resurfaces in Shanghai 20 years later.
You don’t have to be a carpenter to know a good table and you don’t have to have been to China to appreciate Robert Lepage’s The Blue Dragon in the Barbican Theatre – but, in both cases, it probably helps.
The Blue Dragon takes up the story of Pierre Lamontagne, (a character first brought to life by Lepage in the 1980s) now a 50-something French Canadian gallery owner in a Shanghai street about to be swept away by a tidal wave of financialisation. As the play opens, Lamontagne is visited by former flame Claire Foret who finds him at a crossroads in his complicated affair with China and uncertain where his future will unfold: should he fly home or soldier on? An unanswered question that spans the three alternate endings offered to the audience.
Lepage expertly interweaves Lamontagne’s existential angst with Claire’s desperate desire for a child, the growing pains of young artist Xiao Ling and, by extension, the convulsions of the Middle Kingdom itself as it comes to terms with its immense power in this 21st ‘Chinese’ century. The word ‘crisis’ in Mandarin translates as ‘dangerous opportunity’ and twin strands of optimism and foreboding pervade the play throughout.
The wide stage of the Barbican Theatre is ideally suited to designer Michel Gaultier’s vast multimedia canvas of a set: stations, streets, cities, bars and bicycles chase each other across a bustling, busy megatropolis that still contains pockets of silence and stillness in which to be lonely. It is something of a surprise at the curtain call when only three performers: Lepage himself, Maire Michaud and the wonderfully versatile Tai Wei Foo join hands to take their bows.
It is ten years since I went to China: before the global financial crash, the Beijing Olympics and just 6 weeks prior to the country’s entry into the World Trade Organisation. Go and see The Blue Dragon, it makes you want to go / go back to this strangest of strange lands.
Robert Lepage / Ex Machina
The Blue Dragon
17 - 26 February 2011 / 19:45, 14:00