Review: Playing Cards 1: Spades, The Roundhouse ✭✭

Robert Lepage’s first stage show in the round, Playing Cards 1: Spades is the initial production in a planned series of four, each inspired by one suit in a deck of cards.

In the desert city of Las Vegas, at the onset of the US invasion of Iraq, Spades invites us to witness the trials and temptations beneath the skin of its troubled characters. In a series of seemingly disconnected stories, each wage war with their own weaknesses – and where better than Vegas as a testing ground for the human soul? Lepage paints the city as a heavily toxic mess of lives; a cacophony of noise and light and sin.

Lepage has single-handedly inspired a generation of copy-cats

Jean Hazel has designed an industrial playground, a revolving circular platform of doors that rise from the floor, chairs that drift from the ceiling, trapdoors that spring open from nowhere. But for all its technical wizardry, Spades is missing a certain magic. One scene drags languidly into the next with little pace or fire to the storytelling. The juxtaposition of theatrical styles promises something tactile but instead delivers a dream-like quality leaving the whole thing quite impalpable. Maybe it is simply that Lepage has single-handedly inspired a generation of copy-cats, but the images feel repetitive and at times predictable.

Devotees of Lepage will hope for epic, but be left in want.

** (2 stars)

Runs until 2nd March
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