Lepage’s affective economy
in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
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This chapter looks at the effects of Lepage’s theatremaking techniques, engaging with broader discussions of the effects of montage on theatre and film audiences. Questions have long been asked about the political efficacy of montage: whether the intended message of a piece can be guaranteed to land with viewers; whether absorbing a message through a montage necessarily results in the spectator changing attitudes or behaviour; and about the potential of montage techniques to grow familiar. This is a particularly contentious aspect of Lepage’s work: while some scholars argue that his use of montage is knowingly critical, others argue that it is uncritical to the point of being irresponsible. Drawing on affect theory (Sarah Ahmed, Brian Massumi) and the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancière, this chapter argues that Lepage’s productions engage spectators in characteristic ways but contain the potential for very different effects. It identifies two recurrent tendencies which have led to critiques of Lepage’s work as not sufficiently responsible for its representations: the inclusion of cultural references detached from their contexts and histories, and the use of transformational staging moments as attempts to sum up a production’s meanings. Productions discussed include The Seven Streams of the River Ota.

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