Auckland Arts Festival presents a LePage masterpiece
The Far Side of the Moon by Robert Lepage
Robert Lepage’s works are difficult to categorise and The Far Side of the Moon is no different, combining art and science, using theatre, music and visual trickery along with stories that link the ordinary and the significant.
In The Far Side of the Moon Lepage links the story of two estranged brothers with the space race between the USSR and the US, with reconciliation between the brothers paralleled in the historic Apollo-Soyuz joint project in 1975. Bitterness and rivalry happen at the personal and national levels
It’s an interesting history of the space race, following a Russian rather than American trajectory. Scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky is introduced as the key player in space exploration, having worked out the formula for escape velocity. Then we follow the Russian triumphs: the first sputnik in 1957, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, the first spacewalk of Alexey Leonov in 1965 through to the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975.
But there are also the American triumphs, with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong travelling to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission.
One of the brothers, Phillip is a minor academic with an interest in the impact of the space race on popular culture and the other while Andre is a boorish minor television weather presenter. They are brought together on the death of their mother to divide her estate and confront their animosity.
The great pleasure in watching the show is the seamless way in which the stories flow and merge with sets, visuals and props integrated into the action. It is an ingeniously conceived work, elegantly realised.
Even though this is a one-man show, Yves Jacques manages several characters apart from the two brothers. On stage for two hours, he is a consummate performer moving between characters with a faultless ease.
The large complex set features several clever elements including large mirrored surfaces that initially are used to reflect the audience and later used in the final sequence when Philippe appears to float through space. There are also sliding doors which reveal a range of spaces and rooms.
A large commercial washing machine which Phillip uses early on gets adapted over the course of two hours as a spaceship escape hatch, an aircraft porthole and a birthing canal. An ironing board becomes a cycling machine and an exercise machine and at one point a musing Phillip manages to build a model rocket out of cans to replicate a rocket launch
The music composed by Laurie Anderson is used sparingly, providing atmospheric sounds that capture the mystery of space and the everyday. Pierre Bernier's puppeteering skill and the involvement of several technicians manage to make this a work that inhabits both a surreal space as well as being grounded in earthly realism.
This is supplied content and not commissioned or paid for by NBR.