Directed and co-written by Robert Lepage
Produced by Ex machina/Théâtre sans Frontières
In association with Cultural Industry and Northern Stage
Co-produced by barbicanbite08, Cabildo Insular de Tenerife and Festival TransAmèriques, Montrèal
Written and performed by Rebecca Blankenship (Ada and others), Hans Piesbergen (Thomas and others), Sarah Kemp (Sarah and others), Rick Miller (Jeremy and others), Frédérike Bédard (Marie and others), John Cobb (Jackson and others), Carlos Belda (Sebastian and others), Lise Castonguay (Michelle and others), Nuria Garcia (Lupe and others),
This latest ensemble work from Robert Lepage and Ex Machina is an epic panorama linking nine lives spanning seven decades, and spinning stories that are surprising, funny and moving.
As we are taken on a nine-hour journey, we stop off between war-torn Vienna, pre-revolutionary Nicaragua and present day London, encountering people who have lost the power of speech and people for whom speech is the only lifeline.
A dubbing studio to the world of vocal forensics, Lipsynch follows a cluster of interwoven destinies, where each voice is searching for its own identity.
Performance time: 13:00 Running time: Approx 9 hrs/inc 4 intervals and 1 extended meal break
In English, French, German and Spanish with English surtitles.
Ada has a big voice. As a soprano. As a mother.
She comes out in concert black and sings Gorecki’s Symphony #3
a woman dies on a plane. her baby is left behind.
With the help of Thomas – a med student fan she happens upon in her trail to find our what has happened to this baby - Ada finds and adopts the baby
Jeremy & Ada move to London. Ada gives Jeremy singing lessons. Jeremy grows up to become a rock singer. Jeremy sings iron maiden’s ‘the number of the beast’ with his rock band.
Jeremy and his girlfriend travel on the Piccadilly line from Covent Garden. His girlfriend videos a sleazy man chasing a couple of women who could be prostitutes. Ada gets on. The girlfriend gets off. Thomas gets on and he and Ada recognise each other – he is living in London, working as a neurologist – as he gets off he asks Ada too call him.
Ada and Thomas get together. They propose a plan to move out to another flat leaving this one for Jeremy and his girlfriend - Jeremy rejects this saying instead he will go to San Francisco to study film.
On the plane he sings the Gorecki - partly in duet with Ada who moves slowly backwards past and away from him. His birth mother appears and walks across the length of the top of the plane towards him finally seeming to present the last part of his song
We see a projection of a painting of Doubting Thomas with his finger testing Christ’s wound. Thomas is making a tribute speech about his professor mentor – a man who had been like a father to him and a man who kept belief in both god and science
Thomas tells Marie - his patient and a jazz singer from Montreal - that the surgery to remove her brain tumour may lead to aphasia - another doctor translates this into french for her. Thomas tells her that she may lose her speech but not her voice for a period of time afterwards – so she will still be able to sing but not make words.
Thomas is briefly haunted by the professor
We get a supersize close-up of the face of a dragged up actor miming the interview of an old English grand dame talking about her early training as a speech therapist in Exeter during the war – she keeps losing names. We learn that she helped Ada - now by her side - with a stammer as a child. Fabulously funny and interesting.
Thomas and his partner neurologist have a coffee together in a bizarre off-synch set that makes sensible a film image of them sitting across from each other over a table. She tells him about a quantum physics lecture where the scientists wonders if - as things go into a parallel world when they pass through a wormhole - whether maybe with Alzheimer’s thoughts slip through a similar ‘wormhole’ into another dimension of the brain. Thomas wonders if his memories of his professor appearing to him now as a ghost are going through a similar process.
Thomas & Ada meet at the Soho jazz club to hear the jazz singer sing a bravura version of ‘April In Paris’. It turns out Thomas is getting the shakes and drinking and his relationship with Ada is in trouble. Ada leaves. Thomas gets drunk. Sarah returns, asks him if she could die – she doesn't believe but had dropped to her knees and prayed that afternoon. We see a stunning projection of Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel ceiling painting of the creation, which closes up to just the image of God pointing in much the same way Doubting Thomas had been shown prodding christ’s wound, and then this image of god morphs smoothly into the shape and form of a human brain: God, Thomas tells us, like everything else is a creation of our brain ...
We see Maria's brain surgery: an image of the parts of her brain labelled with letters ‘because every brain is unique and it helps to find their way around it’; and then we see the picture drawings she has to name and hear her lose her words.
We first have seen Sarah in the earlier scene on the tube: Jeremy’s girlfriend videoed her looking after her friend being harassed by a sleazy man. She is now in the old speech therapist’s kitchen, smoking and singing silently to ‘do you know the way to San José’’ on the radio. The old lady comes in in her motorised chair and changes the station to the news. Sarah takes her money from the bag that seems to live in the microwave and leaves. Ada arrives and gives the old lady a present.
the kitchen widens to contain a radio studio where we find Sarah, head-phoned up with a male escort, both are being interviewed about their experiences as sex workers: his is boastful and glamorous, hers is hurt and troubled – she has been abused as a child by her stepfather, she has overdosed to get away and into care, she has cut herself their to try and get away from the care worker who is abusing her, she goes from a massage parlour to a street prostitute to support her drug habit. She is not inarticulate but she is utterly out voiced by the male escort who steals the show.
As they are ushered out of the studio Sarah seems to recognise the BBC man who replaces them to read the news in smooth RP
The kitchen comes back together: Sarah back at her cleaning job with the old lady, gets some soup, heats in the microwave (taking the old lady’s bag out first), takes the soup to the old lady and finds she has died. Makes a phone call.
Outside she phones the BBC – asks for Anthony – changed his name – Tony Briggs – leaves her number saying his sister called.
Another radio studio: Tony is recording a story about Narcissus. Sarah arrives and is allowed into the studio …
Sarah and Ada
Tony at the police station
Jeremy in Nicaragua looking for info about his mother – a singer? a nanny?
the launch dinner
blocking the singing lesson scene
the singing teacher’s tearful close-up
sex discovered in the trailer and the german’s black eye
the singing teacher’s death scene and maria’s lost voice
Jeremy calls his mother asking if his mother was a prostitute
Sound technology – overlaying different vocal tracks using laptop – head still bandaged
Sound studio dubbing French onto Jeremy’s film: the singing teacher’s death scene. her first job. she gets the number from Sebastian for louise, who can read lips, to try and discover what her father is saying in old home movie film
Marie at home talking about medication and care for Michelle with her doctor. Louise arrives – translates what she can – banal stuff like “look at the camera” and “what do you think of my new car?” Marie trying to get back the lost memory of the sound of her father’s voice. Louise offers to stay and go through all the film. Marie leaves for her choir rehearsal
Foley studio putting in the sounds for the singing lesson of Jeremy’s film
Choir in the church. Michelle arrives
Sound studio with the voice artist trying out different ‘dad’ voices
Marie is persuaded to voice it and gets the sound of her father being in the room: “of course you will have our father’s voice” Michelle tells her
in his French speaking car trying to cancel the rest of his tango lessons because his wife is leaving him
Tony has died under a train – suicide or pushed? a woman has been caught on camera rushing away from the Manchester train platform at Euston His greek secretary turns him down for tango partnering
Interviews voice artist colleagues about him
the police voice expert analyses Sarah’s answer machine message as someone from the north, top teeth that have been replaced, not too big, and with a minor sound that would depress its listeners. she turns Jackson down for tango partnering
Interviews Sebastian who knew Tony well – worked with all his projects, saw him a lot outside of work too. Demonstrates the Tony’s voice sections making rail announcements
Tony’s flat – loads of sleazy home-made porn films. Sebastian calls him to say he’s remembered Sarah’s visit to the studio.
the police voice expert ids the voice on the answer machine and in the BBC prostitute radio show as 100% the same
Tony finds Sarah working the street in Manchester. pretends a breakdown, asks about her, gets her confession: an accident when Tony came after her and found her at the station on her way back to Manchester, they tussle, he steps back, she runs
sound recording studio: Sebastian is conducting a choir of laughers as a background track for a Susan Sarandon movie we hear running. his phone – bad news
at the morgue in his canary islands home town – identified his father’s 4 days dead body – his father’s corpse farts
at his father’s place getting clothes – simon in the closet
the taped obituary announcement being taken round the streets – the neighbours have added their names in as family – S cuts and splices the cassette tape
the wake – body the wrong way round – dentures missing – simon brings in the aunts bearing gifts – Sebastian’s first tape machine and a tape of his father’s stand-up routine
Constant noise like snow - whispers you can't ever quite catch - the voices - first as ghostly forms straining to break through the stretched membrane of your mind - then more distinct personalities: a priest, a little girl - beckoning - calling you out.
Michelle finally leaving the hospital - hiding her prescription - finding it to get her ticket out - packing her toys
Michelle at work in 'her' book shop - the first we are outside with her voices, the second inside with her warmth and intelligence and kindness - the book she lends to Guillaume - taking her pills
Michelle at home - a visit from Marie & Thomas - he is now a psychotherapist - she is fierce and eloquent in her rejection of going into another trial and Marie's smothering flattering love - he pleads innocence and instead announces that he & Marie are to marry - Guillaume arrives to return the book
The first in a revival of monday poetry evenings - a spanish poem - then Guillaume rapping with Shmo's beatbox accompaniment - then Michelle because she promised she would if he did - her poem 'and I do not die'. and I cry
A cafe. Ada waiting. Jeremy arrives with his infant in a carry-cot: Ada's grandson. Ada gives Jeremy a video: this is your mother
A Nicaraguan cafe. Lupe waitressing. Her businessman uncle arrives with an unpleasant german and his 'wife' in a wheelchair. They sell the idea of lupe going with them to Hamburg to look after the wife and their two children. Out of lupe's earshot she is sold for $600.
A doctor's surgery: Lupe is getting a medical prior to travelling. We hear that her mother died when she was tiny and her father of a heart attack when she was ten. She has high blood pressure but is otherwise healthy. She is fifteen
The doctor taking her a blood while her uncle holds her hand morphs into the german restraining her while his 'wife' shoots her arm with drugs. Then she is raped
She is re-dressed in fuck--me clothes and lined up along a caged bar. In the background a film crew are seen away
Her pimp sets up a deal in a car with Tony Briggs - they drive to a bar and he selects Lupe
Lupe is driven to a hotel room where she meets a filmmaker who pays, says she wants to film her story and gives her her card.
In the car she hands over the money and gets her baby, who she clearly adores. A car accident
The film maker now back at home in montreal with the infant Jeremy. Ada arrives, comforts the crying Jeremy back to sleep, is given the tape of Lupe’s interview - just one of 400 hours of tape this woman has filmed of the voiceless prostitutes she has interviewed - and learns that Jeremy is to be put up for foster parents
Jeremy watches Lupe’s film which we see her tell live - arms back & up and helpless with live film of a man caressing his naked torso superimposed over her - then his and many other hands mauling
Ada returns in her black concert dress and sings again
Robert Lepage / Ex machina: http://www.robertlepage.com/