Needles and Opium by Robert Lepage at London’s Barbican

above:Ex Machina/Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium

Needles and Opium – Gritty and Poetic!
Ex Machina/Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium

Ex Machina/Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium
Performances: 7 – 16 July 2016 / 19:45, 15:00

Needles and Opium produced by the Barbican and Robert Lepage’s company Ex Machina is Lepage’s latest theatrical creation – an updated and deeper version of the original play, (also written and directed by Lepage) which was first performed in 1991. Based on a conflicted time in Lepage’s life after a break up, the play explores parallel moments of lost love in the lives of Jean Cocteau and Miles Davis.

The mélange of stories involves Cocteau, the renowned French author and poet, who wrote the prophetic Letter for the Americans after a visit to New York in 1949, American trumpeter Miles Davis who visited Paris in 1949, where he met Juliette Greco, and Lepage himself, more recently in Paris working on a film narration about existentialists…then time moves back and forth as each character’s story unfolds impressionistically.

Ex Machina/Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium

Ex Machina/Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium

The two principal actors are agile, earthy and perfectly cast. Marc Labrèche (who was in the original version of this play, which was a solo show) plays Lepage and Cocteau. He is a multidimensional physical actor with a broad range and depth switching between pathos to wry humor as Cocteau or Lepage in a flash. Wellesley Robertson III plays Miles Davis with a statuesque presence, strong yet vulnerable and skillfully immerses himself into the slow burn character physically and emotionally.

An additional character is undoubtedly the unusual set, three sides of a huge cube that float and rotate via the ingenious set design by Carl Fillion, complemented by  music and sound design by Jean-Sébastien Côté, lighting design by Bruno Matte, costume design by François St-Aubin and images design by Lionel Arnauld.

The visual storytelling in Needles and Opium is nothing short of magical!

Lepage’s shows usually involve creative technical expertise in collaboration with the play and provide surprises that defy explanation or gravity, rather than linear predictable structures. Needles and Opium goes beyond these elements and enters a seemingly random world in the past strongly rooted in love, loss and addiction. It’s a gritty, poetic and racy world well worth experiencing. Highly recommended!

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About the Author

Jo TomalinOriginally from England Jo Tomalin is currently based in San Francisco, where she reviews Theatre & Dance for www.ForAllEvents.com & www.FringeReview.com - she works in the performing arts as a freelance movement & voice specialist, director + actor. She is also Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University, teaching Movement for Actors, Voice for Actors, Storytelling, Business of Acting, Acting and directs MainStage plays. Jo's first play "Jessica" which she also directed was produced at the Fringe of Marin - a One Act New Play Festival. Jo Tomalin studied Classical Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London; and holds a teacher's diploma (ATCL) in Voice and Acting from Trinity College of Dramatic Art, London. She studied Classical Ballet for 12 years; Graduated from London University's Laban Centre Teaching Credential program in Modern Dance, Art of Movement & Choreography; Completed the two year professional training course at the renowned acting school "Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq" Paris, France, where she also completed the Laboratoire du Mouvement (LEM) scenography and movement course. Jo also holds a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University, MN.View all posts by Jo Tomalin →