The Blue Dragon

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Twenty-six years after his masterpiece, ‘The Dragons’ Trilogy’, Quebecois theatre-maker Robert Lepage returns with a spin-off. ‘The Blue Dragon’ still shows sparks of Lepage’s alchemical mix of film and theatre: who else can command stars and cerulean flames to constellate around the limbs of a human dancer? But, as in nine-hour yawnathon ‘Lipsynch’ (seen at the Barbican in 2008), dull dialogue and flat storytelling depress the hell out of those glorious illusions.

In Shanghai, burnt-out expat artist Pierre Lamontagne (played by Lepage) and his young Chinese artist-girlfriend (Tai Wei Foo, also the choreographer) are interrupted by a visit from his ex-wife (co-writer Marie Michaud), on a baby-shopping trip.

It could be a heartbreaking metaphor for Sino-Western relations; it’s more like a perfunctory excuse for a visual mega-mix. Little is gained from the stiff performances of the show’s creators, who often cycle but go nowhere, like high-concept hamsters inside a glowing box of tricks.

Chinese capitalism is critiqued with random footage of an advert in which ancient heroes flog KFC. And the Chinese character, photographer Xiaou Ling, is mainly an underplayed enabling figure for the Westerners to achieve their desires. The weirdly playful ending, which stages three different exits for the three adults and a baby, appears out of the blue and skims over the consequences of Western adoptions in a country with

a one-child policy.

It’s not Lepage’s fault that one huge filmed overhead of the Yangtze river will remind Brits of ‘EastEnders’. But this is too often soap opera without the drama. Lepage’s soliloquies about calligraphy, or about Pierre’s name (which he translates to Stone Mountain) are the strongest strokes here, memorably framed by huge ink characters which appear on the walls. But ‘The Blue Dragon’ is a decorated pebble compared to the peak of Lepage’s large-scale work.



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