What's Further Away than Youth?
by Estella HUANG
Courville is the latest work of Quebecer Robert LEPAGE, who is known as a "wizard of modern theater direction." He has always astonished audiences with his amazing degree of creativity and highly technical stagecraft. The dazzling visual aspect is always what first pulls people into the performance, and though it may seem wild at times, he indeed includes thoughts he wishes to share. While playing with and overturning format, he provides multiple and completely new perspectives from which to look at life and the world.
Courville is a puppet show that debuted in 2021 in Canada. Through bunraku puppets, handled by three puppeteers, the story of a teen boy's youth and our times is related.
The story is set in Quebec in 1975. Simon, a boy who has just turned 17, lives with his mother and uncle in a suburban one-story house. In the basement, his secret hideout, he keeps his father's ashes and a bat. Though his life seems ordinary, it is full of things that bother him, such as the uncertain relationship between his mother and uncle, a tattoo of batman that he involuntarily got, confusion about what to do with a smart girl who likes him, and a good-looking male friend who is completely uninterested in discussing books.
The story starts on Murray Street, where Simon lives. Through a look at the people and things on this street and a metaphoric comparison of the ground floor and the basement, we are shown the growing pains of youth, life in suburban Quebec, and the permanent decline of a city. Simon struggles to get to know and resist the world and its language, as well as the political turmoil and changes (which he only later comes to understand) that permeate the lives of everyone in that era.
It brings to mind LEPAGE's 1995 film The Confessional. With the help of the Ex Machina production team, LEPAGE exerts his extraordinary imagination on space and architecture to the fullest in creating multilayered imagery and scenery that is always hopping between memory and reality.
LEPAGE believes that the headwinds of the world are surging against each other: an excess of "good" deeds and anger-inspired division exist side by side; it seems we are witnessing a time of adolescence for the entire world.
Courville is full of the ideas of youth, whether at independent moments or the piece as a whole, serving as a micro-projection of the people's lives and the town they live in.
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