Robert Lepage / Ex Machina, The Blue Dragon

Review in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

In Chinese calligraphy, the first stroke that is taught is a straight line that represents the horizon and separates heaven and earth. Or so we are told at the opening of The Blue Dragon (written by Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud) where this notion of inclusive division infiltrates Lepage’s stunning production.

Pierre (Henri Chasse) is an ageing artist who has fled to China to escape the criticism of his Canadian peers. Claire (Marie Michaud) is his acquaintance and former lover who travels to adopt a child. Pierre’s current lover, Xiao Ling (Tai Wei Foo) a young artist, acts as the bridge between these two and the needs and desires they’ve come to China to fulfil. Michaud captures perfectly the humour, desperation and pathos of a woman who has realised, too late, the futility of her lifestyle. Tai Wei Foo’s choreography and movement suitably contrasted with her aseptic portrayal of the thoroughly modern Chinese artist. Her dance in the snow was electrifyingly beautiful.

It’s a rare production that invites its stage crew to participate in the curtain call. But in this case it would have seemed churlish not to. The separation of the stage into an upper and lower level allowed for magical set changes to appear as if from nowhere. Tiny trains and traditional Junks crossed the stage, toying with the idea of scale and perspective. Projection allowed Chasse to literally illustrate Chinese calligraphy as he ‘paints’ symbols onto the cyclorama.

The script was perhaps the only disappointment as dialogue at times seemed stilted or overly simplistic. The concluding scenes cleverly and poignantly left the audience questioning the West’s influence on the East, the two cultures’ relationship, and what this could cause China to lose.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 31