The White Lady by Lepage | The duty

In my hometown of Quebec, among the old stories, floated the legend of the white lady. A young woman in mourning for love threw herself towards her abyss from the top of Montmorency Falls, near the capital. So, her silhouette in a wedding dress stood out, it was said, certain evenings. Her destiny would join that of a certain Mathilde, who lost her militia fiancé in July 1759, killed at the Battle of Beauport by a soldier of James Wolfe. Since the end of New France, white ghost on white foam, passers-by have claimed to see it. Legends help to poeticize the dramas of peoples.

In Courville by Robert Lepage, at TNM, we find the echo of his disastrous fate. Through a scene evoked, Montmorency Falls once again welcomes the final flight of a girl in love. This time, in full XXe century, during the playwright’s half-reinvented adolescence. This uneven spectacle, a marriage of styles, genres and periods, testifies as always to Lepage’s numerous references, all fields united. A white lady here, a Japanese tradition there.

Artists cramped in their bubbles quickly run out of fuel. But the creators of exploration, curiosity, national memory and attraction to foreign cultures leap with seven-league boots. Even at the time of bearing witness to their society or their childhood, steeped in a thousand artistic and historical sources, equipped with antennas, they inevitably renew themselves. Their works advocate the importance of general culture to enrich its veins. Neglected at school as elsewhere, these legacies are taking on water. Yet they help to re-enchant the world, whether we are alone at home or in the spotlight of a stage.

Good vintage, bad vintage, Robert Lepage excels at weaving links between worlds that are polar opposites. In Courville, personal memories and political and social echoes of the 1970s are linked to the old techniques of Japanese bunraku puppets. All against a backdrop of breathtaking multimedia stage mechanics, the secret of which belongs only to him and his Ex Machina accomplices.

By putting together his best shows, Lepage manages to maintain the balance between form and substance. Elsewhere, sometimes things rock. In Courville, the discovery of bunraku puppets operated by technicians dressed in black ends up making the action heavier. Without the grace of flights of 887 and of The dark side of the moon, the text lacks sap. Emotions get lost. Which does not prevent us from applauding his staging discoveries or saluting his taste for risk. With him, there are always several bones to gnaw.

The playwright suffered in his adolescence. Here he explores the confusion of his 16-year-old avatar who is looking for where to place his pawn on the world chessboard. We salute the talent of the performer Olivier Normand in playing and making the puppets speak. The narrative was tightened after the launch of Courville at the Diamant de Québec, without finding the perfect rhythm. But what abundant creativity!

These tilting stages, this tilted stage, these sets in perpetual succession, these special effects and these video projections captivate our eyes. Lepage thrives on bubbling. Beyond the pitfalls of a piece, it is its audacity that stands out. In his 40-year career, hasn’t he produced a series of masterpieces and more disheveled opuses, rolling out various sets around the planet? Sometimes they make me moan, sometimes his shows dazzle me, but I like watching him put himself in danger. Through trials, victories, errors, flashes of genius, mutations of parts along the way. Several long-term artists, out of breath at the end of the track, rehash proven formulas. Not Lepage, who throws us out to pasture in Courville its bunraku puppets with fascinating, but jaw-dropping profiles. It’s difficult to identify with these laboriously handled creatures of wood and fabric. However, how he explores the field of possibilities!

This homage to cultural Japan in projected screens helps the creator of Vinci to appropriate the secret codes of a magnetic civilization that he admires. While adding the legend of a white lady, the emotions of René Lévesque, popular songs and hockey games. His young hero, bullied at school, becomes the king of his basement. “The world is ours,” he seems to tell us.

Young people gathered at the exit of Courville. I wished them to find enlightenment in the spectacle of Lepage’s dizzying mechanisms. Above all, to share his pleasure of embracing the entire planet by tying his threads at home.

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