It has taken me a little while to write about this show, in part because I was wondering whether the feeling of awe would subside; whether I might come to a point in my reflections on the play where is began to see cracks in the surface. Alas, a week on, and there are none.
Lepage is a master storyteller, completely in control of the simplicity of the story and his means of telling it at all times. Starting out speaking colloquially, he slips into the world of the play so seamlessly that once the audience realize, there is a collective gasp -- upon the first reveal of the set. We spiral into the world with him, one of memory and recollection, wherein he parallels his own childhood memories of people, most importantly his father, with a story of his own desire to be remembered in a certain way.
Lepage's ingenious set design makes use of his love of live video in a striking way, illuminating the spaces he is talking about on a physical space with life -- causing us to ponder the simultaneously static and living nature of our memories of people. They remain the same, and yet change, almost unknown to us. Along with this, his use of perspective helps further this story of how we perceive and therefore how we remember. Lepage, the adult reflecting backward looms large over the apartment building, while Lepage the small child in the memory is towered over by the image of the soldier, brilliantly realized through camera angle and its relationship to a pair of boots.
Despite all of the stage magic and technology, every moment, every image comes across as completely simple and effortless. Even the use of smell, moving from a moment with firecrackers in a metal bin, to rolling in boxes of memories seems almost accidental. But rest assured, not a single thing that transpired on the stage was accidental, each moment carefully planned and yet seeming to be a surprise even to Lepage himself.
Another layer, of course, is the inherently Canadian story Lepage tells, weaving between French and English, manifesting the conflict of the play through nothing smaller than the French/English conflict present even today in Canada, and most certainly in 1960's Quebec. Through the use of Michèle Lalonde's Speak White, a stunning climactic moment in the performance by Lepage, every anxiety and inadequacy of "canadian-ness" came to light; particularly poignant in the face of the Canada 150 celebrations. What version of Canada are we celebrating?
I'm truly honoured to have seen not only this master's work, but performed by the master himself. This will not soon leave my memory.