25 February 2007

Day Trip

LIPSYNCHimageonly

I went to Northern Stage in Newcastle yesterday to see the work-in-progress show that will become Robert Lepage's new work, Lipsynch. It will come back to this country in 2009 I think, as a 9-hour piece. Yesterday things kicked off at 2pm and my friend Paul and I had to duck out before the last of the seven parts, at about 6.30, so we could catch the last train back to London.

It was quite a trip.

I won't attempt any kind of precis or review here. My hold on the thing is quite tenuous, I didn't take notes and I became very emotionally involved in the first half hour, so much so that I was like a wrung-out sponge by the first interval. Luckily for me the second session was more comedic and playful. By the time we left the theatre my head was spinning like a top.

The company, comprising the north-east based Theatre Sans Frontieres working together with Lepage's Ex Machina people, displayed that distinctive mix of bravura technical skill and artful emotional range. Wagner used to talk of his endeavours as attempting an evolution toward the Gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts, or a 'total' work of art. So many decades on, the form Wagner worked in, though highly loveable to many (myself included), looks pretty limited next to the epic theatre engendered by this unassuming (by all accounts) French-Canadian theatre worker.

Lyn Gardner wrote a preview for the Guardian.

6 comments:

Penny said...

Forgive my scepticism and total ignorance but four and a half hours/nine hours of a losely scripted play sounds a bit of a nightmare. I don't want to sound negative but I don't understand how it would work, how it would be accessible to an audience or the logistics of spending that length of time in a theatre watching a play. Would the full version be shown over several nights?

Can you explain how the whole thing works out?

sbs said...

You had to be there...
Of course audiences will happily commit to a day in the theatre to watch Shakespeare, or Wagner!, I suppose the difference being with Robert Lepage that in a show like Lipsynch he takes a subject (in this case, the human voice) and weaves together several stories, connected but also singular, and these have different emotional pitches if you like, and he's very careful to vary the tone and pace, so it's never less than fascinating. He really is a man of talents approaching genius, with an international following. I can only advise you to take the plunge when the piece comes to the Barbican...
You may know the film 'Jesus of Montreal' (I noted the Christian element of your work), Lepage was in that when he was younger.

lancewrite said...

There's more at The British Theatre Guide. I have fond memories of all day theatre events (Nicholas Nickleby etc.). There's a feeling of extra commitment on and off the stage that adds a lot (if the show is good).

Ova Girl said...

I think that's amazing to be able to see his work in process, blumming heck sbs. And...2009? The mind boggles.

sbs said...

Thanks for the link Mr Lance, and yes there was definitely a heightened sense of the 'shared experience', and that lovely warmth between audience and performers when it's acknowledged that both sides are discovering something new - like the swell of goodwill you get when someone goes on as a last-minute replacement with a script in their hand. Not everyone felt that way, course, and the BTGB acknowledged that. But plenty enough of us did.

Dear ova girl, maybe I'll come and see it in at the Sydney Theatre! and hang the bad acoustics.

Penny Culliford said...

Do you know, Jesus of Montreal didn't come up at all in my research for the last book, but looking at the info on imdb, I do see a few similarities, certainly in concept. I will certainly see if I can get a copy of the film. I guess there never was an original idea!

Thinking about my comment on the length of Lipsynch, I did watch the York Cycle of Mystery plays last summer - and that took all day - and I could quite happily have watched the whole thing over again.