Saturday, 11 February 2006

The Anderson Project

Last I went to the Barbican Theatre with a friend. As I was saying to him, I had never been to the Theatre although I have now performed three times in the Concert Hall. Being a member of the Chorus means I have spent more time on the stages of the some of the biggest venues in London than in their house. Some of them (like the Royal Albert Hall) I have never been to as a member of the audience.

We were their to see the Anderson Project by Robert Lepage. I did not know what to expect at all; did not even know anything about the show. My friend had suggested it and I had just acquiesced.

I wish I could say something intelligent about the show. I am not sure I can. It was a hugely entertaining and impressive performance. Lepage is on stage by himself for two hours with only the support of a few props and an interactive decor including video projections. It is funny two. The show, written, directed and performed by Lepage, tells the story of a French Canadian composer coming to the Palais Garnier in Paris to write the libretto for an international coproduction of one of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. He has swapped flats with a has been, drug addicted rock star friend of his and ends up living in a flat above a peep show in Rue St Denis. In parallele, we follow the director of the Opera whose life is falling apart.

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the show a lot, its true meaning would have passed by me completely had my friend not been here to explain things to me. Although on the surface everything is quite cheery and relaxed, the show tells about the hellishness of life; how people are atomised and ultimately alone and having to cope with what is thrown at them. Of course, one of Andersen's main themes is also isolation. I think the interesting point of the show is that what Lepage is saying is said so subtly that you don't really notice it and like in real life, it is easy to blank out all the negative elements of one's life, wallow in some sort of ignorant smuggness and pretend that everything is ok, unless a friend helps you take a little perspective.

An added bonus for me was that the show is bilingual, in French and English. I suppose this added some extra resonance of being in-between two culture.

Go and see it if you can.

The Andersen Project
Barbican Theatre
Until 18 February

The Independent's review
The Guardian's review

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