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March 20, 2006 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

The Dragon’s Trilogy

I’ve been privileged enough to see a lot of great art. I’ve seen and heard shitloads of music, film, theatre, art and literature, so it’d be easy to become desensitised. Not when you see things from Robert Lepage. His theatre company, Ex Machina, has a reputation as the foremost theatre company in the world. However, The Dragon’s Trilogy and Robert Lepage isn’t just the pinnacle of theatre – this is near the pinnacle of modern art. In fact, I’m not even sure how I’m going to do it justice with a 400 word review.

The Dragon’s Trilogy spans 75 years of Canadian and world history. The play starts off with the Western world being forced to confront an Eastern world (set in 1910 Chinatown in Quebec City). The play starts straightforward enough, but then adds layers upon layers as the setting modernises. There is a shift to Chinatown in Toronto, and finally to Vancouver. Another concurrent strand set in Hiroshima exists too, where the Eastern world is forced to confront the Western world. The play ends with the unification of the Eastern and Western worlds – simply through love. Symbolically the play also ends in Vancouver – as a city facing the East with a large Eastern population, Vancouver is also similar to Hong Kong, a point clearly made in the conclusion. Lepage is attempting to show how shared histories define who we are, and can’t be forgotten if we want to link together.

This isn’t just a beautiful and touching story. This is mind-blowing theatre direction. I’ve sat through enough crappy (and not so-crappy) theatre to know how brilliant Lepage is. His use of space, set (it’s very simple, yet allows for great complexity), multimedia, sound, performance, dance, and above all music have to be seen. I can’t explain it – just give me fifteen minutes alone in a corner with a box of tissues. Lepage wields multi-level story-telling with breath-taking ease – this is lucid, yet highly complex stuff. The play was almost cinematic in scope, mixing in dreams, fantasy, temporal shifts, dance and realism – and often seemed to make a lot of films (who don’t have this space restriction) seem cowardly. Audience members might have been challenged by the fact that the play’s running time was five and a half hours (an hour of intervals included). But for me, this could have gone on forever.

Directed by Robert Lepage
Performed by Ex-Machina
Queens Wharf Events Centre
11 – 18 March


About the Author ()

Brannavan Gnanalingam has come a long way from being born in the teeming metropolis of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He may be known as feature writer for Salient, but is also the only man in history to have simultaneously donated both his kidneys. He is also an amateur rapper going under the moniker Brantank and hopes to win a Grammy.

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