Geography and Identity: Some Theatrical Forays (Geographies) by Etc. Montreal

Book Review : Geography and Identity: Some Theatrical Forays (Geographies)

By Etc. Montreal

  • Publication Date: 2009-03-01
  • Genre: Performing Arts

Book Review

There are many ways to begin a reflection on geography and theatre. One way is simply to consider the circulation of shows, which traces a worldwide map and increasingly exposes us to a common culture. As with cinema or certain contemporary artists, it is indeed possible to follow the productions of directors such as Robert Lepage, Dumb Type, Romeo Castellucci, Bob Wilson, Peter Sellars, Peter Brook, Marthaller or Arianne Mnouchkine. Attending the most well-known festivals, one realizes how the local character is under-represented, to the benefit of works having an international circulation. Paradoxically, these works contribute to the creation of a sort of global culture while nonetheless claiming geographical moorings regarding identity. For example, it is in Montreal that I discovered the Italian Romeo Castellucci and the Polish Warlikowski (who was then directing the British Sarah Kane). Like many festivals, the FTA (Festival TransAmeriques) tries to mirror the contemporary international theatrical scene, and it is possible to see shows in their original languages to thus get a taste of the contemporary creations produced abroad. Now, I have seen the same shows in Montreal, Paris, New York, Brussels, Tokyo, etc. It would be valuable to study this particular, global culture, one that spins its standardizing web and imposes itself upon us through worshipping events. I wish to examine the geographical as a theme, stimulus, reflection and source of questions, through the creations of companies that specifically belong to this festival culture, and that appear in all of the capitals of the world. Robert Lepage's work is, of course, to be considered foremost: his creations travel the world while simultaneously transforming these travels into mise-en-abyme (or circulations, as captured in the title of one of his shows)--precisely exploring the issue of identity via geographical moorings. Lepage's universe is shaped by the experience of the foreigner/Other and the reverie it induces, and by the journeys it sets in motion. Most of his protagonists are individuals in training, who are traveling far from home and who, while candidly discovering other cultures uncover themselves. Cultural difference becomes a vehicle for dream and fantasy in Lepage's work.

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