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Robert Lepage’s Solo Drama “The Andersen Project” Is a Modern Fairy Tale Starring Yves Jacques

"The Andersen Project" plays March 17th and 18th in Memorial Hall

"The Andersen Project" plays March 17th and 18th in Memorial Hall

Carolina Performing Arts will present Ex Machina’s critically acclaimed production of The Andersen Project (Le Projet Andersen), a modern fairy tale written, directed, and originally performed by French Canadian actor, director, and playwright Robert Lepage, on March 17th and 18th. Created for his Ex Machina company by Lepage, with assistance from Peder Bjurman and Marie Gignac, this solo drama debuted in 2005 during the bicentennial of the birth of Danish writer and poet Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), who penned some of the world’s best-loved children’s stories, including “The Little Match Girl,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Little Mermaid.”

French Canadian actor Yves Jacques will perform The Andersen Project in Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of Carolina Performing Arts’ four-play International Theater Festival, which began with the National Theater of Scotland’s visceral Iraq War play Black Watch on Feb. 9-13 and Cirque Éloize’s iD on March 1st and 2nd and concludes with the Handspring Puppet Company’s performance of Woyzeck on the Highveld, a South-African multimedia fantasy based on an unfinished play by German dramatist Georg Büchner (1813-37), on April 1st and 2nd.

When the curtain rises on The Andersen Project, Ex Machina writes on its website:

“Having come to Paris at the behest of the Opéra Garnier, which has commissioned him to write the libretto for a children’s opera based on a fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen, a Québécois songwriter [Yves Jacques] settles down in a friend’s apartment, rue Saint-Denis. During his stay, he necessarily meets people: one of the Opéra’s senior managers (a man with some odd and unusual likings), a young janitor and graffiti artist of North African descent, as well as a dog who could well be guiding the tale along its way.

“Freely inspired from two stories by Andersen (‘The Dryad’ and ‘The Shadow’) and from anecdotes drawn from the famed Danish author’s Parisian travels, The Andersen Project calls on some of [Robert] Lepage’s recurring themes: the confrontation between romanticism and modernism, between recognized and underground art forms, between past and present. However, in this new solo work, he also explores more troubling territories: questions about sexual identity, unfulfilled fantasies, and a thirst for recognition and fame that are drawn from Andersen’s life and writings, only to serve as a filigree to the modern tale.

“Once again, Lepage tells the story of a Québécois whose travels abroad and meetings with Others allow him to find out what defines, motivates and inspires him.”

Also according to the Ex Machina website:

“Robert Lepage’s creative style rests on intuition and gives actors, designers and technicians the latitude to contribute and to invent the shows together with him.

“Cross-cultural experiences and a diverse and baroque character are at the heart of Lepage’s work. These elements are echoed by a creative process which, rather than relying on themes, principles and subjects, makes use of all kinds of resources: objects, places, anecdotes, historical or other events, memories….

“By freely associating ideas, the creative team can discover poetic connections between these seemingly unrelated elements. The shows develop in an organic manner, like a tree that sees its branches grow in unexpected directions….

“Common characteristics often recur from show to show: a visual framework influenced by cinema, a sense of ritual (Lepage believes that theatre is a place for communion), and a highly developed formal side that sees usually decorative elements become infused with meaning and emotion.”

In reviewing previous productions of The Andersen Project (Le Projet Andersen), the critics raved:

  • London Evening Standard reviewer Nicholas de Jongh wrote: “Robert Lepage’s exquisite, new solo show, which blends computer graphics, video, musical tracks and realism, brilliantly plays upon the idea of solitariness in theme and performance…. [The predominantly gay] Andersen’s life and his darkest fairy tales, ‘The Dryad’ and ‘The Shadow,’ prove far more the stimulus than the subject of this imaginative meditation on outsiders’ experience of love and loneliness, secrecy and sexual identity, viewed from romantic and postmodern perspectives.”
  • The Ottawa Citizen critic saluted The Andersen Project as “the hottest ticket in town” and added: “Robert Lepage, that Merlin, has done it again. [Le Projet Andersen] is brilliant, funny, visually flabbergasting and deeply human all at the same time…. Lepage revisits favourite themes such as mistrust of and fascination with those who are different from us; the hypocrisy of art undertaken as a commercial or government-driven venture; Quebeckers’ complicated relationship with France; strangers travelling in a strange land; and the magnetic pull of the soul’s dark side.”
  • San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Robert Hurwitt added: “[The Andersen Project] is a combination of high- and low-tech stage wizardry with the no less magical shape-shifting talents of an extraordinary actor. Once again, the piece centers on two characters who might be split sides of the same personality, but this time their conflict plays out with other stories that intersect and nest expressively within one another. Canadian actor Yves Jacques deserves a large share of the credit, in a solo performance that never seems to be anything less than a full, multicharacter play. His skill in instantaneous shifts from one character to another is only part of his achievement. With a mere shift in a glance or tone of voice, Jacques conjures the presence of the characters he’s speaking with as well….”

WARNING: On its website, Carolina Performing Arts cautions Triangle theatergoers: “This performance contains language and themes which may be offensive to some audiences and is not suitable for children under 16 years of age.”

Carolina Performing Arts presents Ex Machina in THE ANDERSEN PROJECT, starring Yves Jacques, at 7:30 p.m. March 17 and 8 p.m. March 18 in Memorial Hall, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

TICKETS: $20-$30 ($10 UNC students). BOX OFFICE: 919/843-3333 or https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/tickets/.

SHOW: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/.

VENUE: http://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/aboutus/memorial.aspx.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/visitorinfo/default.

OTHER LINKS:

The Andersen Project: http://lacaserne.net/index2.php/theatre/the_andersen_project/ (Ex Machina).

Ex Machina: http://lacaserne.net/index2.php/ (official website).

Robert Lepage: http://lacaserne.net/index2.php/robertlepage/ (Ex Machina), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lepage (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0503215/ (Internet Movie Database).

Yves Jacques: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Jacques (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0415191/ (Internet Movie Database).

Hans Christian Andersen: http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/index_e.html (The Hans Christian Andersen Center) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Christian_Andersen (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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