Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Anderson Project

My secret pleasure these days? Listening to the post-show audience murmur as the theatre empties. Yes, that's me spying on your thoughts and observations. I'm the inside-outsider; I'm supposed to. In the past, I would get incredibly frustrated when people couldn't just let a performance sit and resonate quietly for awhile, but our nature is toward immediate judgment. I'm beginning to sympathize with that need to formulate a response and articulate your experience: It fills me with wonder to see the essence of theatricality rediscovered, when someone realizes that by virtue of the form, the content is communicated in the best possible way.

[Ed: To Justin and all of my other casual readers, my apologies. I'm still getting the hang of this, and figuring out my audience. How apt. Anyway, The Anderson Project is a one man show, starring LePage as a number of characters involved with the eponymous commission and writing of an opera version of The Dryad by Hans Christian Anderson. The first excitement comes during a title sequence in which a hooded thug leaps onto the wall and 'graffitis' the cyclorama to reveal a portrait of Mr. Anderson--and the clever tricks continue. We see the Canadian Writer, the French contact, and the Dryad herself, all played by LePage. The staging just breathes life and energy that far surpasses the story itself. With projections, screens, invisible cables, and simple light and shadow manipulation, this one man brings an entire universe to life.]

On the exodus from Robert LePage's Anderson Project, the patrons were aflutter (seriously) with questions of "How the fuck did he do that?" or "He was amazing. No other way to describe it." It's that magic that keeps us going to the theatre: the hope for something that will utilize its inherent beauty and imagination in a new and unusual way. What I appreciate most about the work of Mr. LePage is that he is speaking a theatrical language, but it is today's theatrical language, altered and augmented by our relationship to new and mixed media, entertainment, and art. For two hours (no interval), he kept us leaning forward in our seats, delighted by the possibilities onstage. There were surprises, suggestions, and moments of truth. I recall quoting him in a presentation I did, a haughty little venture entitled 'New Media: Expanding Our Performance Vocabulary': he said, "We were wondering how to connect poetics and dramaturgical ideas and heartfelt emotions with the new tools we have around. Technology comes in with a new vocabulary, and we're still stuttering, trying to figure out exactly how to use it."

That presentation of mine was borne out of total frustration with the use of mixed media in scenography these days. For me, whose job is often is to cut what isn't necessary or intentional, technology can hinder more than help. The choice to use it cannot be arbitrary, especially since it is the most fluid and changing of our current scenographical methods; it has to be understood for its qualities and weaknesses. His is a welcome dexterity.

(Not to mention the fact that I was endeared by the many self-conscious theatre references embedded in the text of the show--a 'theatre person' will write for a 'theatre audience' at times...we enjoy our inside jokes as much as the next person).

The Anderson Project continues at the Barbican through February 18 as part of the BITE 06 Festival.


Blogger Justin Kownacki said...

As a casual reader who may not be familiar with the basics of the performances you're writing about, could I request a brief summary at some point in future updates? It's great to know a show was amazing to the point of inspiring awe among the audience, but since I probably won't get to see it myself, I would enjoy a summary of what it is I'm missing. Thanks!

10:11 PM  
Blogger Aaron Nakama said...

Love your review of the performance - spot on. I saw the production last Friday in Vancouver - AMAZING!

1:36 PM  

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