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A CurtainUp London Review
The Dragons' Trilogy
The second act, Red Dragon, follows the two girls, their domestic situations and their misfortunes against the backdrop of events with worldwide significance. A husband who is neither his wife's lover nor his daughter's biological father, a child with a disabling illness and a mother's breast cancer coincide with the broader tragedy of war.
In the final part, White Dragon, some of the fragmentation is reconciled and the action concludes in a cyclical fashion. The Englishman Crawford, now wheelchair-bound, metaphysically returns to his birthplace Hong Kong in death. The children of immigrants encounter each other across language and race barriers: Yukali (Emily Shelton), descended from an absconded American pilot and a geisha killed in Hiroshima meets Françoise's son, the conceptual artist Pierre (Hugues Frenette).
The Barbican's cavernously vast auditorium has been converted into two parallel smaller blocks of seating and thus neutralizes the theatre's usual impersonal immensity. The set is a gravel-filled space with a single lamppost at one end and a wooden booth at the other. The fine grey gravel is trudged across, dug in, and even converted into a zen garden. Images from news clips, of the skies or of details onstage are projected onto a screen at one end and adds texture to the action.
Lepage's famously dreamlike style is simple and understated. The production encompasses the broadest themes imaginable, but in such an unaffected way that it is utterly beguiling. Dances realize prophetic dream sequences or re-enact segments of the narrative in a creative and ingenious way.
At one point, two lovers in army uniform skate around the edge of the stage to the "Skaters' Waltz." As the music grows louder, they are joined by other soldiers and the patriotic, congratulatory send off quickly develops into a destructive march, trampling domestic effects and forcing helpless civilians out of their way.
The actors demonstrate a chameleon versatility with which they unrecognisably adopt different roles. The music (performed by Jean-Sébastien Côté) is hauntingly atmospheric and seamlessly integrated into the action. One particularly poignant song, "Youkali" by Kurt Weill, is full of yearning and lyrical ache for a harmonious world.
This experience will expand your theatrical outlook, making other productions look staid, conventional and mundane. The unique chance to see The Dragons' Trilogy is both a perfect introduction to Lepage's brilliance and an exceptional opportunity for fans to revisit a formative play. The stories are at once human and cosmic, and the far-reaching themes are produced imaginatively and unpretentiously.
This indescribably mesmeric production is a flawless combination of aesthetic majesty and emotional integrity. It will assail your senses, enthral and enchant you.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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