Riverside Studios, London W6
Opened 10 November, 1991

Here's an event to fall in love with. In four parts (like many fine trilogies) spanning 80 years and the breadth of Canada, this full version of The Dragons' Trilogy lasts six hours, all of which possess a visual elegance of symphonic proportions; at its best it is a breathtaking marriage of grace and emotional resonance.

Director Robert Lepage begins with a range of materials – a parking-lot kiosk, an expanse of sand, some lengths of rope – and a fundamental image or theme – an impressionistic portrait of Canada's Chinatowns in this century. From these he has woven a vast fabric in which the unlikeliest juxtapositions make for wholly unexpected cumulative effects: a typing tuition tape comments upon a character's fears, a nun recounts her mission's expulsion from Communist China while standing in the pannier of a speeding bicycle.

The experience builds insidiously from a leisurely start, drawing the audience imperceptibly into ever more intimate involvement. As the vague narratives unfold (in English, Québecois French, Chinese and Japanese) to the accompaniment of Robert Caux's haunting score, contrasts between scenes become more and more agonising, with climactic set-pieces – a savage march of victory/destruction, the simultaneous arrival of Halley's Comet and a Chinese New Year dragon ("dragon star", geddit?) – of shattering intensity. See Robert Lepage and die.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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