French-Canadian auteur Robert Lepage returns to the Barbican with a solo show suffused with his inimitable brand of heartwarming and absurd stagecraft.
It’s ostensibly a memoir about Lepage growing up in a working class tenement block in Quebec, with the building brought spectacularly to life by an incredible scale model, complete with tiny video screens to show the inhabitants moving around inside. This fantastical dolls-house twists and folds to become a sitting-room filled with giant furniture – as a child would see it – or Lepage’s kitchen as an adult, or the garage where his father would retreat for some quiet contemplation.
Lepage is joined on stage by props that whizz by on unseen conveyor-belts, projections filmed live on his iPhone, remote control cars, maple-leaves that tumble from above. There’s a make-do-and-mend quality to the visuals, the ideal accompaniment to his doleful – and often hilarious – lament to a childhood past.
And while the material is searingly personal, speaking frankly about his loving but sometimes strained relationship with his parents and siblings, it also blossoms into a pragmatic love-letter to Quebec and a treatise on memory itself, taking in dementia, legacy, and the subjectivity of human experience.
By turns smart, funny, touching, cutting, angry and sad, 887 feels like a microcosm of a life played out on the stage; utterly unmissable for fans of Lepage’s singular body of work.
First published in City A.M.