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Robert LePage's lyrical 887 intertwines intimate reverie with national agony

At large in the Memory Palace

A towering voyeur. Photo: Ex Machina.

National treasure Robert LePage is back at SFU's Woodward Centre this week and next with the his most introspective exploration yet of the hybrid art form that he's pioneered for the past couple of decades: the one man show with a cast of thousands.

In 887, as in a half dozen previous productions, LePage is the sole presence onstage. Yet the "credits" page of the program notes lists a couple of dozen technical collaborators, and at the curtain he shares his bow with some 10 behind-the-scenes support staff.

Not to mention the innumerable "extras" in the grand sweep of LePage's coming-of-age in 1960s-1970s Quebec, body-surfing in the gathering wave of the FLQ's language agitation. His fellow surfers range from his own relatives and neighbors to anonymous parade crowds to historic icons like Charles DeGaulle. They appear as back screen projections and diorama figures studded throughout the wildly ingenious origami peepshow staging of the two-hour uninterrupted monologue.

The phantasmagoria gets off to a deceptively prosaic start. LePage steps out in his own wry and rumpled personage to make the customary announcements about cellphones and First Nations territory. He segues into a little bit of background about tonight's program: it originated from his mysterious difficulties in memorizing a mere three-page poem, Michele Lalonde's SpeakWhite, for a 40th anniversary commemorative ceremony of the 1970 nuit de la poésie, a seminal event in the run-up to that year's October Crisis.

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