Melbourne Festival: The Blue Dragon
But what intrigues me is how a four star rating can be awarded a show in which "the narrative remains superficial", the plot "resembles [that of] a middlebrow midlife crisis novel", the characters "leave faint impressions" and where the show, like the protagonist Pierre, is "infected by orientalism" and might leave us "undernourished"... even the Chinese dance is "problematic".
I quite agree!
Henri Chassé contemplates... bathwater sans baby
Oh, and "the performers develop a static, exaggerated style that rarely moves beyond caricature." Touché again.
Cameron, oh Cameron... has your review been nobbled? I know (via Twitter) Michelle Griffin loved The Blue Dragon, and that Michael Shmith (IRL) adored it too... But, gasp, would they? Could they?
Me? I gave it a solid two outa five. My date slept quietly.
Robert Lepage and his Ex Machina company have been regulars on the festival circuit since the 1990s. For good reason. He is a brilliant story teller and actor, and an ingenious director of theatre, opera and more recently film. We’ve seen his one-person shows and his hardcore operas (Bartok and Schoenberg) as well as his marathon soap operas. His last work in Australia, Lipsynch, had five intervals and ran from early afternoon deep into the night. Like many of his works, it spanned generations and continents. It was gripping and deeply moving.
In comparison, The Blue Dragon (created the year after Lipsynch) is a mediocre work, a banal tale badly told. It’s Madame Butterfly set in a booming modern China instead of war-torn Japan. The contemporary twist is certainly topical -- the intersection of China’s one-child-per-couple policy and the West’s recent obsession with the adoption of children from non-Western countries -- but the treatment is superficial and the acting is soulless and half-hearted.
Five-star orientalism: Tai Wei Foo in The Blue Dragon
The star of this show, really, is Michel Gauthier’s set which morphs from the inside of a plane to a Shanghai loft to a railway station in the blink of an eye. What a shame the projected translations (the play is performed in French, Mandarin and English) on opening night weren’t anywhere near as well honed.
A slightly shortened version of this review appears in The Herald Sun today.
The Blue Dragon. Written by Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud. Produced by Ex Machina. Directed by Robert Lepage. Set design by Michel Gauthier. Sound design by Jean-Sébastien Côté. Lighting design by Louis-Xavier Gagnon-Lebrun. Costume design by François St-Aubin. Projection design by David Leclerc. Choreographed by Tai Wei Foo. Performed by Henri Chassé, Marie Michaud and Tai Wei Foo.