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Aiguilles et opium

Multimedia work by maverick writer/director/actor Robert Lepage, first performed by the author at the National Arts Centre in 1992, and then in its world tour. The work was sometimes performed in English as Needles and Opium; it was then performed by Marc Labrèche.

Hanging from a harness, falling through space, pressed against screens, simply speaking...but with four arms, an artist recounts the story of his breakdown. He also explores the lives of Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau who (Lepage suggests) both used drugs to escape loneliness. As with many Lepage works, such as Elsinore, the text is merely the starting point for an explosion of imagery.

Much of the critical discussion surrounding the piece was about what it actually was. Can a work that veers so completely into imagery and away from text still be called theatre? Is it, rather, a moving sculpture/tableau or performance art? These debates only seem germane insofar as they consider the nature of theatre itself. Lepage, particularly with Aiguilles et opium, takes the theatre to new places, and these places are only wrong for those who revere the status quo. The work signalled the beginning of Lepage's involvement with stage machinery, which he subsequently applied in opera and Cirque du Soleil design.

Commentary by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof

Last updated 2018-07-22