Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 13 News List

The fractured reality of fairy tales

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pphotos: courtesy of ntch

Fairytales have an image of lightness and goodness. Many have their dark sides, however, and, as it turns out, so do their creators.

Denmark decided to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of its most famous sons, Hans Christian Anderson, in 2005 by commissioning a variety of works and events to celebrate the writer's life and work. Among those tapped by the Danish Ministry of Culture was Canadian theater director/actor/writer Robert Lepage.

It could have been a straight forward biography. But Lepage took a decidedly unconventional approach to both his subject matter and the actual play, which will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with his previous shows, such as The Dragon's Trilogy and The Far Side of the Moon, which have captivated audiences both in his home base of Quebec and arts festivals from Sydney to Edinburgh.

Lepage performed in the original production for more than a year, before handing the role over to a frequent collaborator and fellow Canadian, Yves Jacques, who will be performing here next week, fresh from performances in Seoul.

While The Anderson Project is called a one-man show, it is a far cry from a solo performance, for Lepage and his Ex Machina collective have used the latest technology - and a large dose of magic - to created a multi-media, time-shifting world for his characters and the audience to explore over the course of two hours. The settings range from the inside of an opera house and a park to a sex shop (more about that later) and the 1867 World's Fair in Paris.

For the script, Lepage drew on two of Anderson's tales - The Dryad and The Shadow - as well as his account of his trip to France to visit the World's Fair and other writings from Anderson's diaries and biographies. Lepage has said in interviews that he was interested to discover from Anderson's diaries that the man who crafted such exquisite children's tales and is still seen by the Danish as the embodiment of celibate purity was obsessed with masturbation (which is where the sex shop comes in).

Performance Notes:

WHAT: The Anderson Project

WHEN: Thursday to Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Sept. 23 at 2:30pm

WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21-1號)

TICKETS: Almost sold out, although a few NT$1,500 and NT$$2,000 tickets are still available

The Anderson Project raises questions about sexual identity, unfulfilled fantasies, the thirst for fame and confronting the past. It is also the story about failure, a project that is never completed.

The play begins with a young Canadian writer who has been invited to Paris to write the libretto for a children's opera based on an Anderson fairy tale. There are four main characters: the Canadian writer, Hans Christian Anderson, a sex-obsessed opera house bureaucrat and a Moroccan immigrant who works as a janitor in Paris. Jacques plays all four - and more - effortlessly (apparently) morphing from one to the other and back again.

The 51-year old classically trained actor has been well known to Quebec theater audiences and Canadian TV viewers for many years. He began to make his mark internationally in the early 1990s, and has appeared in The Barbarian Invasions, Aurore and The Aviator.

While technically astounding, both in terms of the audio-visuals and the acting, The Anderson Project retains a sense of romance and wonder that is at the heart of Anderson's fairy-tale world.

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