Robert Lepage and Ex Machina, The Seven Streams of the River Ota

Review in Issue 8-4 | Winter 1996

The Seven Streams of the River Ota told the story of the Twentieth Century from the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima right up to 1997. The narrative, which at times would have made a soap opera producer blush, followed the intertwining lives of several characters, most of whom were western and all of whom were middle-class and internationally mobile. The story chugged along pleasantly enough, touching on issues as diverse as AIDS, Hitler's death camps and voluntary euthanasia – all, of course, in the metaphorical shadow of Hiroshima's mushroom cloud. Economic, social, political or indeed any other type of context was ignored as the show barrelled along to its breathtaking conclusion: ‘that in some way we are all like survivors of Hiroshima, aren't we?' To see these characters, jet-trash each and every one, claim as their own the suffering, strength and dignity of Hiroshima's survivors made this reviewer rather woozy. My feelings ricocheted from disbelief to disgust via amusement in the blink of an eye. It was a lengthy 7.5 hour journey along the seven streams of the River Ota, and to be served up garbled Zen and milky humanism at the end was an act of egotism seldom surpassed as well as an unbearable insult to the intelligence. However, the audience greeted it with a standing ovation. To be fair, there were visually ravishing moments and the staging was tasteful and frequently imaginative (though seldom innovative). The performances were all beautifully realised and first class – but isn't that the least an audience should demand of theatre?

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1996

This article in the magazine

TT 8-4
Issue 8-4
p. 19