Must-See: Canadian Stage’s revamped version of the Robert Lepage hallucinatory classic, Needles and Opium
Needles and Opium, an early Robert Lepage triumph, has been making heads spin for decades. Here, a look at the play’s over-the-top iterations
The imaginary worlds Robert Lepage builds onstage are always as rich, complex and baffling as a dream. Theatre, he has said, “is a sensuous experience.” And so his shows aim for sensory overload. His Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, Kà—on now in Las Vegas and housed in a purpose-built pavilion at the MGM Grand hotel—features a massive flaming wheel of death and a floating stage that rises and falls over a 50-foot abyss. In Playing Cards: Spades, which was mounted at last year’s Luminato Festival, actors and props emerged from a glowing pit in the centre of the stage like spells from a cauldron. His notorious production of the Ring Cycle at the Met took place on a 41-tonne set, with 24 moving planks that morphed into forests and snowy mountains. This month, Canadian Stage mounts a revamped version of Needles and Opium, the show that helped make Lepage a theatre star in the early ’90s. Based on the drug-addled lives of Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau, and inspired in part by a week-long bad trip Lepage experienced in high school, the play is appropriately hallucinatory—at one point, an out-of-his-head Cocteau flies above the New York skyline like a junkie Mary Poppins. Lepage has gone bigger since Needles and Opium, but he’s never gone wilder.
Needles and Opium
By Robert Lepage
Bluma Appel Theatre
Nov. 22 to Dec. 1