887 Review: Tell us again about Freedom and Democracy…….
They say it’s ‘not over until the fat lady sings’, but, in our case on the Bloggers & Critics Scheme, it’s not over until the Canadian actor, writer, director recites Speak White.
In a plot twist that would have you hanging on to hope for a potential sequel, out of seemingly nowhere we were offered the opportunity for ‘one last hurrah’ with 887. Written, designed, directed and performed by the founder of Ex-Machina, Robert Lepage, 887 landed at TRP’s The Lyric for a two night, love ‘em and leave ‘em style tour.
With the online marketing kept simple, and only a snippet of information revealed to us prior to taking our seats, the performance slowly and subtly began to unveil itself, whilst cleverly using the house lights over a sustained period of time to pull the audience deeper down into a world firmly focused on the lone performer up ahead.
Instantly likeable, Lepage doesn’t feel like he’s up there delivering a theatrical performance, so to speak; his particular gift is more delicate and multi-layered than that. This is a very personal tale and it shows. 887 is immensely clever and technically intricate from the outset, but simultaneously flows effortlessly and is often effectively simplistic in its delivery, offering something that I personally have never experienced at the theatre before.
Lepage seamlessly twists and tangles his personal and professional journey from the working class suburbs of Quebec alongside the fraught and tense generational issues of his parents, and the social and political struggles of Canada herself.
Solo on stage for two-hours, Lepage and the Ex-Machina team have created a mind blowingly effective set that conveys so many elements it will leave you in awe of the sheer talent and ingeniousness behind the production.
Baring your soul in such a manner to complete strangers must take some doing. Lepage lets us see him as he’s confronted by his own image, his motivations, his private influences from his parents to those that lived around him, as well as the political icons and struggles that unfolded long before his time yet still lay present around every street corner. He opens up a world where his father wrestles with the sheer weight of the responsibilities he bears and the social prejudices he experiences without complaint, to his mother’s prison where women’s roles were tightly defined as they rotted and faded away into background of existence, and to his cherished but turbulent memory of his grandmother which, just like the hypnotic synapses of her deteriorating brain that light up the set, twists and turns through ever changing time frames, emotions, and narratives that lead to a powerful, empowered, and touching conclusion.
887 is big and certainly bold enough to hold the grand and daunting stage of The Lyric, but small and personal enough to feel intimate and private. It’s a privilege to witness a talent and a performance that is so thoughtful and unique in delivery. Whether the show resonates with you personally or not, there’s no questioning how undoubtedly talented Lepage and the award winning team are. They make the uninterrupted two hours look easy, which is no mean feat up there when you have nowhere to hide and no one else to turn to.