2016 House Programs 887 - Page 6

He never knows where the next idea may come from . As we talk , he opens an envelope that ’ s just arrived in his office . Inside is a book about the Irish in Quebec sent to him by a preview audience member who thought it chimed with themes in 887 . Such outside eyes let him see his work from a different perspective . “ I have a plan , I have stuff I ’ d like to say , there are things I think I ’ m communicating , but people come up to me and they ’ ll say , ‘ Why is your character so condescending ?’ You realise that everything you ’ ve been doing has a tint of condescension that you didn ’ t want . The people working in the room won ’ t necessarily see that . The audience does .”
What makes Lepage unusual is that this kind of development continues beyond the public rehearsals and in front of a paying audience . His shows are fluid creations that never reach completion until the last night . As writer , director and actor , he allows his experiences around the world continually to feed back into the work . Early in 2015 , he had two try-out runs in France and the very act of performing outside of Quebec altered the material . It changed again when he brought it into the English language . In turn , the English affected the way he did it when he next performed in French .
“ The French in France is different to the French in Quebec ,” he says . “ Sometimes you understand the contrary and it can be very misleading . I still do it in Quebecois , but I have this filter where I ’ m going , ‘ Maybe I should change this word to that .’ That helps me decide what I ’ m trying to say . It ’ s less sloppy .
“ Then after that , an English translator comes in to translate this mumbo-jumbo improv . You sit with the translator and you say , ‘ Well , that ’ s not exactly what I meant .’ And they ’ ll say , ‘ Well , in English there ’ s a way of saying this .’ It ’ s like rewriting it , not translating it . So when I flip back to French , I can ’ t say what I used to say . I ’ ve learnt from the English translation . That ’ s one of the most important parts of the writing .”
Of course , the consequence of this is that Lepage makes his mistakes in public . It takes a particular sensibility to trust a show to grow in its own time and not be defeated by negative feedback . Comedy improvisers such as Ross Noble , Phil Kay and Paul Merton have something of the same present-tense approach and , indeed , the young Lepage was a leading light in a troupe of theatre-sports improvisers popular enough to land a three-year run on Quebec television . It seems to have given him a thicker than average skin .
“ I ’ ve had so many people write to newspapers saying , ‘ Lepage is over ,’ he laughs . “ Thank you , I ’ m free now to move on with my career and get on with the next thing . But I do care for what people think . I read the reviews and they ’ re part of the process . Critics and audiences are used to reviewing the final product that they ’ ve paid for and to judge it for what it is . I try to impose something where people go , ‘ Oh , I like that version ,’ or , ‘ It ’ s really good , but I think you should add this to it .’ If I feel I ’ ve done a bad show I ’ m disappointed , but I have another chance . When you do a bad movie , it ’ s over , but with theatre , the day after , you can make amends .”
This is especially the case for Lepage because of the international way he operates . Ex Machina ’ s production of 887 has a typical mix of funders : it was commissioned by the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games , and co-produced by the Edinburgh International Festival along with a long list of presenters in France , Spain and Canada . As he sees it , this puts him in a privileged position . It doesn ’ t put him above criticism , but he can afford not to be preoccupied by the opinions of one small arts community .
“ Most people I know have to deal with the audience , the money that ’ s available to produce , and the criticism of this country , this province , sometimes of this city . Everybody ’ s locked into this thing , so , of course , if you get a bad review or you make a bad choice , you feel guilty . But we ’ re outside of all that . We have audiences all over the place . All these different audiences have their rules about accepting the work or not . If the New York reviews say that this show is horrible , I should learn from that , but my company will not die because a reviewer panned us in New York . I make a lot of bad choices , there ’ s a lot of trial and error but I don ’ t panic about it .”
►► Mark Fisher is a freelance writer .
He never knows where the next idea may come from. As we talk, he opens an envelope that’s just arrived in his office. Inside is a book about the Irish in Quebec sent to him by a preview audience member who thought it chimed with themes in 887. Such outside eyes let him see his work from a different perspective. “I have a plan, I have stuff I’d like to say, there are things I think I’m communicating, but people come up to me and they’ll say, ‘Why is your character so condescending?’ You realise that everything you’ve been doing has a tint of condescension that you didn’t want. The people working in the room won’t necessarily see that. The audience does.” What makes Lepage unusual is that this kind of development continues beyond the public rehearsals and in front of a paying audience. His shows are fluid creations that never reach completion until the last night. As writer, director and actor, he allows his experiences around the world continually to feed back into the work. Early in 2015, he had two try-out runs in France and the very act of performing outside of Quebec altered the material. It changed again when he brought it into the English language. In turn, the English affected the way he did it when he next performed in French. “The French in France is different to the French in Quebec,” he says. “Sometimes you understand the contrary and it can be very misleading. I still do it in Quebecois, but I have this filter where I’m going, ‘Maybe I should change this word to that.’ That helps me decide what I’m trying to say. It’s less sloppy. “Then after that, an English translator comes in to translate this mumbo-jumbo improv. You sit with the translator and you say, ‘Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, in English there’s a way of saying this.’ It’s like rewriting it, not translating it. So when I flip back to French, I can’t say what I used to say. I’ve learnt from the English translation. That’s one of the most important parts of the writing.” Of course, the consequence of this is that Lepage makes his mistakes in public. It takes a particular sensibility to trust a show to grow in its own time and not be defeated by negative feedback. Comedy improvisers such as Ross Noble, Phil Kay and Paul Merton have something of the same present-tense approach and, indeed, the young Lepage was a leading light in a troupe of theatre-sports improvisers popular enough to land a three-year run on Quebec television. It seems to have given him a thicker than average skin. “I’ve had so many people write to newspapers saying, ‘Lepage is over,’ he laughs. “Thank you, I’m free now to move on with my career and get on with the next thing. But I do care for what )ѡ$ɕѡɕ٥́ѡeɔ)Ёѡɽ̸ ɥѥ́Ց́ɔ)͕Ѽɕ٥ݥѡɽՍЁѡЁѡeٔ)ȁѼՑЁȁݡЁЁ̸$Ѽ)͔ͽѡݡɔa=$)ѡЁٕͥdȰa%ӊéɕ䁝Ё$ѡ)ԁ͡ձѡ́Ѽлd%$'eٔ)͡܁'eͅѕЁ$ٔѡ)]ԁ٥ӊéٕȰ)ЁݥѠѡɔѡ䁅ѕȰԁ)̻t)Q́́ѡ͔ȁ1͔)ѡѕɹѥ݅䁡Ʌѕ̸)5éɽՍѥ܁́)չ聥Ё݅́ͥѡQɽѼ(ԁAAɅ̰)ɽՍѡɝ%ѕɹѥ)ѥمݥѠЁɕ͕ѕ́)ɅM ͕́́аѡ)́ɥ٥ͥѥ%ЁͻeЁ)ٔɥѥʹЁɐЁѼ)ɕѡ́͵)չ+q5Ё$܁ٔѼݥѠѡ)ՑѡѡӊéمѼɽՍ)ѡɥѥʹѡ́չ䰁ѡ́ɽ٥)ͽѥ́ѡ́丁ٕ剽éѼ)ѡ́ѡͼ͔ԁЁɕ٥)ȁԁԁե丁 )ݗeɔͥѡи]ٔՑ́)ٕȁѡѡ͔ɕЁՑ)ٔѡȁձ́Ёѥѡݽɬ)ȁи%ѡ9܁eɬɕ٥́ͅѡЁѡ)͡܁́ɥ$͡ձɸɽѡа)䁍ݥЁ͔ɕ٥ݕ)́9܁eɬ$Ё)̰ѡɗéЁɥɽȁЁ$)eЁЁлt(+ZZ5ɬ͡ȁ́ɕɥѕȸ((