'I'm fascinated by the Devil'
By Lucy Powell
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Independent on Sunday
Robert Lepage's work has always provoked an extreme reaction among theatregoers. So what will they make of his new, diabolically inspired operatic production?
"...[the] linguistic tension is an experience he will explore at the Barbican in his forthcoming show Lipsynch, a tie-up between his company, Ex Machina, and the small, Northumberland-based Théâtre Sans Frontières. The show, which opens in September, has been six years in the devising, and will run for a buttock-trying nine-hour duration.
Voice, language and speech are the "divine trinity" behind Lipsynch, issuing from the father, the mother and the self – though the father "could be your mother's female lover". "The father's voice belongs to the person with the greatest emotional impact on your mother when you are in the womb," he explains.
Lipsynch promises to relentlessly pursue the idea of how we come to own language, through the repeating arcs of nine characters across seven decades (from 1945 to 2015). Of course, Lepage says, the show is not a departure from his lush visual style, and "yes, some actors will appear in multiple stories, to hold it all together – it's like plaiting a braid". But ask him to divulge that unifying narrative, and he pauses. "It's very complex," he chuckles. "And also, it's not done yet."
For most, such uncertainty would be crippling. For Lepage, it is crucial: "I try to keep two things in my work: doubt and chaos. People ask me: have you a recipe, a 'language Lepagean'? I say no, keep that idea away from me, I don't want it. I like to go out on a limb."
How Lepage has taken theatre by storm
The Dragon's Trilogy, 1985
The then 27-year-old Lepage's five-hour investigation of the connections between East and West launched his international career. Rapturously received for its inventive language and emotional charge
The Seven Streams of the River Ota, 1994
Interwoven tales of post-Hiroshima grief; appalled critics when it opened, as it over-ran by two hours; two years of workshopping later, and it was hailed as "spellbinding"
The Far Side of The Moon, 2000
Lepage played two brothers, one a brash TV weatherman, the other a failed, introspective academic, both in mourning for their mother. Their relationship is likened to that of the US and the Soviet Union in the space race
The Andersen Project, 2005
A satirical lament on loneliness and loss, as a displaced French-Canadian rock star is asked to write an opera based on Andersen's tale The Dryad and arrives in Paris in search of critical affirmation