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Robert Lepage’s stunning “887”

First – no, not yet, no baby yet. But at least it’s cool – amazingly cool for July, so Anna’s not sweltering. The midwife today told her this baby is not as big as the last one, so it’s not as urgent to move him out. Not today or tomorrow anyway, probably, the midwife said.

Haven’t been able to get tickets for Panamania events because I’m on hold, though two friends who were at Robert Lepage’s new show “887” last night wrote to say I must see it. I’d intended to anyway, having read that it was about memory, an exploration of his own life – my kind of thing. So when I heard the midwife’s words, I immediately went online to get a ticket. There were only a few seats left and I was urgently scrabbling for my password when the site told me my time had expired and I’d have to wait half an hour to log back in. I was sure all the tickets would be gone so called and was cut off, called again, frantically, and got the second last seat.

Well – finally Toronto gave a standing ovation to a show and a performance that really deserved it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a roar of approval from our cool Anglo crowd. What a superb show, a brilliant work of art. I walked out of Lepage’s last show here; it was so overproduced and complicated and relentless, so cruel to the constantly moving actors, I thought of it as theatre abuse.

But this, though it had his usual extremely inventive use of technology, was relatively simple and beautiful and moving. He is exploring memory, his own, his family’s, his society’s. He takes us inside the apartment building where he lived in Quebec City, at 887 Murray Ave., and shows us all the inhabitants. He builds a world of the past, and then of the present, when, with a push to the walls of the brilliant set, he is suddenly in his own modern stainless steel kitchen, charged with memorizing a revolutionary Quebecois poem that is giving him trouble. He – from a half-anglo, half-French family – takes us through the birth of the FLQ,  Charles de Gaulle’s speech, the murder of Pierre Laporte.

Mostly, he introduces us to his father, a handsome man who left school at the age of eight to work and could hardly read or write, once a lifeguard, then in the Canadian navy during the war, relegated to being a cabdriver for his entire adult life. Lepage portrays him with unforgettable tenderness, sorrow and pride. He portrays himself as a bit of a blowhard and an egotist, which may or may not be true but provides lots of much-needed laughter.

Haunting. Yet again, a superb work of autobiographical theatre. I am lucky to have seen it.

Thanks, my grandson, for giving me tonight off. A night to remember; a fine memory. Let’s explore.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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