The Blue Dragon at the Barbican

Robert Lepage The Blue Dragon

Robert Lepage’s new work, The Blue Dragon, has been hailed as yet another inventive masterpiece from the super-creative Canadian.

His followers from Cirque du Soleil were looking for an enchantment to equals that wondrous group. His theatre fans wanted another amazing development of thought transformed into a stunning tableaux, with smoothly running sets to make them gasp with delight.

The Blue Dragon had expectations to meet.

Lepage does not go the easy route. This work was presented in Chinese, Canadian French and English, all usefully subtitled. But subtitles do tend to hamper smooth action. Hence it is to his huge credit that we were sitting in the Barbican theatre for two hours (with no interval), mesmerised by the rather deceptively simple story.

The Blue Dragon is about a life told in pictures and drawings. Chinese calligraphy is given meaning with comments by the wonderfully melodious voice of Lepage, the main character, Pierre Lamontagne. His life, as an artist/art dealer in Shanghai, is contrapuncted with the lives of his ex-wife and present girlfriend. We soak up though visuals and music the state of art and life in this incredible city: the frailty of life, people trying to survive, and how their need for - and inability to form - attachments is really so central to their lives.

The visual effects as always are truly amazing - the beauty of one starclad sky will stay with me for a very long time indeed. So maybe beauty is one answer to this deep quest for connection? This sometimes terrible beauty is the price exacted for the closeness we crave. And if we are able to see the beauty of The Blue Dragon, the dark part within all of us, then perhaps we also are able to share it and find the attachments we so long for.