A Moon To Sleep By
by David C. Jones
Ah “art”. Some you tantalize, others you leave cold. It is your nature. Your audience can be fickle and sometimes you are overly enigmatic with them. It is a tempestuous relationship often exhilarating and sometimes exhausting...
Robert Lepage is celebrated as an iconic Canadian artist and a master craftsman of story and form. In 1994, he founded Ex Machina, a multidisciplinary production company, and in 2000 he created one of his most widely celebrated works - The Far Side of The Moon. The show has toured around the world starring himself or long time ‘doppelganger’ Yves Jacques. It was made into an award-winning movie in 2003 and now it returns to Vancouver.
The staging is impressive. A giant stage length 10-foot high mirror rotates above (like a ceiling) and below (like a table) in front (like a wall). It reveals a seemingly endless series of panels that slide and open and can be written on with chalk. Laurie Anderson created a soundtrack that was moody and artsy.
Two brothers - Andre and Phillipe - are dealing with the death of their Mother and the dispensing of her modest estate. One is a cocky and self-serving weatherman and the other is more introspective – pre-occupied with space travel and making a film for alien visitors. The backdrop for their story is the Soviet / American space race. Well that, and a goldfish that once belonged to their mother.
Although a one man show on-stage – we have Yves Jacques until the 4th and Mr. Lepage returns to the role on the 6th through 10th – there are puppeteers who manipulate a space man - who pops up in surreal situations and moves fun props about. Coats come to life and domestic items evoking the Mother magically transform in melancholic and dreamy ways. An ironing board becomes a bicycle; a front-loading washer becomes an airplane window and a CAT scan machine.
Being lost in space and the need for connection and meaning are the themes at play here. It is dreamy, visually stunning, poetic, quiet, thoughtful and introspective and … I fell asleep. So did my companion.
This is a masterpiece of Canadian theatre but there was little in the narrative that was at stake. The brothers are getting by, they are neither happy nor devastated – they are sad but move on. The visuals are sumptuous and dream-like but to what end?
So why is it a masterpiece? The stagecraft is spectacular. The story is heartfelt and fantastical and as it floats along it is often awe-inspiring.
The opening night audience leapt to its feet with shouts of “Bravo!” while my friend asked, "What time is it?".
Sit back and experience masterful story telling. Relax and let it wash over you. But you won’t need a seatbelt.