Jo Tomalin

Reviews

Cal Performances Robert Lepage Ex Machina 2 E Labbe

Robert Lepage’s Ex Machina: 887 – Exquisite!

above- Pictured: Ex Machina performs Robert Lepage’s 887 Friday–Saturday, May 4–5, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall.(credit: Érick Labbé)

Pictured: Ex Machina performs Robert Lepage’s 887
Friday–Saturday, May 4–5, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall.(credit: Érick Labbé)

Robert Lepage and Ex Machina presented 887 at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley May 4-5, 2018 produced by Cal Performances. Lepage has presented several shows at Cal Performances in the past, that he creates, or writes, or performs in or directs. 887 is written, designed, directed and performed by Robert Lepage and it is a very personal memory play about his recollections growing up in Canada.

Lepage and Ex Machina are renowned for cutting edge theatre that pushes the limits of technology, performance and the imagination – and this show continues his remarkable journey. Lepage created 887 when he starting wondering about memory and how it works. He realized that remembering something like an address or phone number from decades earlier is often easier than remembering what one did recently. So Lepage went on a quest, researching the science and facts, thus 887 was born.

Pictured: Ex Machina performs Robert Lepage’s 887
Friday–Saturday, May 4–5, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall.(credit: Érick Labbé)

A model of a building is revealed to be a house where Lepage grew up, and it holds treasure! He is a compelling storyteller and recalls the neighbors in detail and the building becomes alive with video clips, animated objects and Lepage’s articulate and always fascinating narration. There’s a voyeuristic feel about seeing people’s lives play out in front of our eyes but there is nothing untoward about what we see. Lepage grew up in Quebec City and we are transported back to this time – as he continually searches for the process in which we organize our memories. One poignant memory (among many) is when his grandmother comes to stay with his family and how her influence and personality on the young Lepage stays with him to this day.

Pictured: Ex Machina performs Robert Lepage’s 887
Friday–Saturday, May 4–5, 2018 in Zellerbach Hall.(credit: Érick Labbé)

Stories in english, and french with english supertitles, are interwoven with detail and care – spontaneous, tender and creatively told with rich text, objects, shadows and multimedia. Suddenly we are drawn into each apartment, family and their lives. The experience is visceral and unexpected.

The thread that triggers Lepage’s interest into memory that runs through the play is that he has been invited to perform a memorized poem at an event, Speak White by Michèle Lalonde. However, he notices that memorizing the lines is difficult. As he searches for information about memory and its function he finds visual explanations, such as a game that explains how the right and left sides of the brain works, using the building and it’s levels as a clever analogy. The play contains several illuminating explanations like this, it’s a wonderful discovery!

At two hours with no interval the show is substantial, yet every moment is fascinating. 887 is a beautiful thought-provoking magical show brilliantly performed by Robert Lepage.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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