I have got a problem. I keep getting Robert LePage and Robert Wilson confused with each other. Embarrassingly, I also get Robert Anton Wilson and sometimes Robert Plant muddled together with them into into one giant Robert, writer of the Illuminati trilogy, groundbreaking set designer, famous director, and inspiration for two generation of metalheads.
Unfortunately, I think there’s really only one of them that I really like, and that’s the author. I went to see Playing Cards: Spades at the Roundhouse because I thought I was going to see something by Robert Wilson (since I admired the set work for Einstein on the Beach even if I thought it was slow and dull); instead, it was by the irritating French director who’s really well known but who I’ve found rather unforgivably self indulgent. Playing Cards: Spades represented what I saw as a nadir of his work (not that I have enough to judge it by): an overly long night of technical perfection (including flawless performances) utterly lacking in motive force and emotive power. It was exactly the kind of evening I avoid in either theatrical or cinematic form: too many stories supposedly linked together by the fact that the characters will, at some point, cross each other’s paths (easy enough in a Las Vegas hotel), sassed up with a little sex, a lot of violence, a couple of buckets of humiliation, and a bonus visit from the devil a la Don Giovanni. Yeah, at the end there was a really awesome smoke tornado – the first time I’d ever seen such a thing – but after having been in the theater for two hours and twenty-five minutes, I was beyond caring.
Bonus: front row seats were £15, only 10% of the view was blocked, and you can get up and go pee whenever you want. Negative: two and a half hours of my life are worth more than £15, but you may feel differently.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, February 21st, 2013. It continues through March 2nd.)