tue 13/04/2021

887, Edinburgh International Conference Centre | reviews, news & interviews

887, Edinburgh International Conference Centre

887, Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Magical, meditative new show on memory from Robert Lepage

Technical wizardry: Lepage's intricate revolving set conjures a model of his childhood homeErick Labbe

Incoming director Fergus Linehan has assembled some of the most respected names in their fields for his first Edinburgh International Festival. For classical music, that means Anne-Sophie Mutter, Valery Gergiev and Michael Tilson Thomas (among many others); for dance it means Sylvie Guillem; and for theatre it means Simon McBurney’s Complicite and Robert Lepage.

Incoming director Fergus Linehan has assembled some of the most respected names in their fields for his first Edinburgh International Festival. For classical music, that means Anne-Sophie Mutter, Valery Gergiev and Michael Tilson Thomas (among many others); for dance it means Sylvie Guillem; and for theatre it means Simon McBurney’s Complicite and Robert Lepage.

It’s a risky strategy – not to mention an expensive one – and an approach that could threaten to sideline more experimental, less starry artists whose names aren’t quite so well known. But on the strength of Lepage and his company Ex Machina’s new show 887, getting its European premiere in the cavernous space of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre before heading off across the Continent, it’s one that’s paid off magnificently – and might just help put Edinburgh on the map as a go-to destination for contemporary international theatre.

With its embedded video, iPhone cameras and seemingly magical scale models, 887 feels like classic, technology-heavy Lepage, but he brings his theatrical flamboyance to bear on himself in a cool, considered solo performance, lining up his early life against the political turbulence in Quebec in the 1960s and 70s in what ends up as a moving meditation on memory, history, language and family.

Lepage's 887He recreates the apartment block where he grew up – at 887 Avenue Murray, giving the work its title – as one side of an intricate revolving set, remembering in teeming detail his neighbours and friends, and contrasting them with his Alzheimer’s-suffering grandmother (who later ousts his siblings from their bedroom), whose memory is increasingly failing. He brings in a horribly vain but hilarious explosion of resentment at his own pre-prepared obituary, a callous rejection from private school, and the kidnappings and bombings carried out by the Quebec Liberation Front, sliding elegantly between lecture, monologue and rhyming verse. Indeed, it’s the quiet gracefulness with which Lepage combines and weaves together his various strands that really marks the show out – and he even plays tricks with the audience’s own memories as facts and references recur in unexpected new contexts.

It’s a playful, lyrical piece, sometimes unsettlingly honest, sometimes broader and more philosophical, even political. Despite the odd tiny technical hitch – a hinged panel that Lepage struggles to open, or a judder in the revolving set – his technology binds everything together seamlessly, and indeed often brings a sense of magic to something quite mundane. In its reflective but quietly wise way, 887 is one of the theatrical highlights of Edinburgh 2015.

It’s the quiet gracefulness with which Lepage combines and weaves together his various strands that really marks the show out

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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