Lepage, Robert

Robert Lepage, director, actor, designer, dramatist (b at Québec C 12 Dec 1957). After studying at the Conservatoire d'art dramatique, where he was much influenced by instructor Jacques Lessard, co-director of Le Théâtre Repère, Lepage joined this troupe, soon becoming its principal actor and director. His first work, Circulations (1985), gave clear indications of the ingenious, experimental, multilingual, multi-media approach to theatre on which his international reputation is now based. His one-man spectacle, Vinci (1986), demonstrated his remarkable acting talent, and the first of his brilliant large-scale dramatic canvases, La Trilogie des dragons (1987), mesmerized Canadian audiences in Montréal, Toronto and Ottawa before being exported to London and Paris, where its success was repeated.

Other large-scale spectacles, Les Plaques tectoniques (1990), Les Aiguilles et l'opium (1991) and Le Polygraphe (1992), have followed, attracting the highest critical acclaim at home and abroad. His 7-hour stage play, The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1995), is perhaps his most ambitious work to date in its several productions at home and abroad, although Lepage still describes it as "unfinished." A film, , adapted from one of its segments and dealing with the 1970 OCTOBER CRISIS, was highly acclaimed at the 1998 Montréal and Toronto Film Festivals, winning the award for the best Canadian feature film at the latter. Another important film, Le Confessional, opened the Toronto Film Festival in 1995. La Face cachée de la lune, written in collaboration with Adam Nashman, was staged in Québec City in March 2000 and in Toronto the following month. It is surprisingly personal, dealing on one level with his mother's death in 1999 and, on another level, with the race for first manned moon landing between the Americans and Soviets 4 decades earlier. In Zulu Time, which opened in Québec City in May 2000 after performances the previous year in Zurich and Paris, dialogue virtually disappears and performance dominates - a trend in his recent work. Zulu Time was accompanied by a stunning, summer-long multimedia exhibition at the Musée de la civilisation in Québec City, conceived by Lepage and entitled Métissages/Crossings.

As an example of his technique, Les Aiguilles et l'opium skilfully melds an experience from his own life (a failed love affair) with the entangled love lives and drug addictions of French surrealist author Jean Cocteau and American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. In this one-man show the acrobatic Lepage plays all 3 characters, with visual theatrics including his effortless suspension aloft between 2 propellers, simulating a flight between Paris and New York, with film clips, shadow play, music and sound effects that eerily evoke the intended atmosphere. There is a similar flight scene at the end of La Face cachée de la lune.

Appointed French-language director of Ottawa's National Arts Centre (1989-93), Lepage has been in constant demand in major centres abroad, including Tokyo's Globe Theatre (where in 1994 he directed 5 Shakespearean productions in French and Japanese), the National Theatre in Munich, the Royal National Theatre in London, and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where his masterful reinterpretation of Strindberg's Dream Play in the 1994-95 season brought applause even from conservative critics. He has also directed large-scale opera productions, notably Bluebeard's Castle by Bartók and Schoenburg's Erwartung for the Canadian Opera Company in 1993. A master of dramatic illusion, his stunning use of light, space and perspective, complemented by acrobatics, haunting live music and unusual sound effects, creates a total theatrical experience that has already begun to influence the language of drama worldwide.