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Robert Lepage to direct at Stratford 2018

Robert lepage Stratford (1)
Robert Lepage will make his directorial debut at the Stratford Festival in 2018 with Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” reports The Toronto Star’s Karen Fricker.

Drawn in by its explicitly political text, “Coriolanus” was Lepage’s first crack at Shakespeare.

In 1983 he created a version called “Coriolan et le monstre aux mille tetes [Coriolanus and the Thousand-headed Monster] at Théâtre Repère in Québec City. It was later performed at the Festival de Théâtres des Amériques in Montreal in 1993.

“Coriolanus” is an epic Roman tragedy that revolves around an egotistical leader, who holds contempt for the plebeians whose support he has won over, and the fractured relationship with Volumina his powerful mother.

With its righteous political leader dividing the new Roman republic and clashes between aristocrats and plebs it’s perfect for our times.

According to Fricker the Festival will work with Lepage’s company Ex Machina on the production. Some members of the Festival’s company have already attended a week long workshop with Lepage in Quebec city. Another is planned this fall.

No word yet on Lepage’s cast, but former Stratford company member Dion Johnstone, who played the lead in Stratford’s critically acclaimed “Othello,” directed by Chris Abraham, would be a wonderful choice.

Johnstone recently played Coriolanus in a production directed by Michael Sexton at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York.

Dion Johnstone Corlianus

Dion Johnstone in “Coriolanus,” at the Barrow Street Theater.
Photo by An Rong Xu.

Fricker writes that Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino expressed his desire to bring Lepage to the Festival, adding it’s a “long held dream.”

In 2006 Cimolino directed Colm Feore in the title role with Martha Henry playing Volumnia.

The production drew mixed reviews and attention from anti-poverty groups, including the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, who described the Festival as “a showpiece of lavish consumption” and staged a protest at the Festival describing the opening night audience as “a who’s who of the rich and vile.”

Despite rarely being produced T.S. Eliot ranked “Coriolanus” above “Hamlet,” calling it “Shakespeare’s most assured artistic success.”

In the meantime, Toronto based fans of Lepage can see his touring solo show “887” which runs April 7 – 16 at Canadian Stage.

Robert Lepage’s 887.
Photo by Érick Labbé.

Then in 2018, Lepage’s “Frame by Frame” a multidisciplinary production inspired by Norman McLaren’s 1952 Academy Award-winning film, “Neighbours,” will be on stage at the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, June 1 to 10.

One hopes that The Stratford Festival would schedule Lepage’s “Coriolanus” to coincide with the National Ballet of Canada’s production so that fans from around the world will have the rare chance to see two very different works by this Canadian genius.

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