La Camera di Commercio Italiana in Canada – Ovest | YES, WE KANATA
Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West, small business, small business bc
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directed of a story, by Robert Lepage


Giuliano Compagno


In the Italian premiere, the public of the Napoli Teatro Festival crowded the Politeama to attend Kanata, a huge work announced by Robert Lepage, who was able to “guide” more than thirty actors of the Théâtre du Soleil on stage, and did it for the joy of meeting a difficult challenge: to put an entire nation on stage: Kanata. This assonance referred to an Iroquois term, a native American language now practiced by a few thousand inhabitants between Ontario and Quebec. Kanata” means country, with the declared intention of not attenuating the collective self-consciousness challenge to which the Canadian culture seems to have voted to legitimize itself definitively. Nothing different, after all, from what touched on the German people (for reasons of absolute historical evidence), when Edgar Reitz took on the weight of Heimat, 15 hours of a monumental film that intended to tell the German twentieth century between 1919 and 1982.

Here, Lepage states that this his Kanata 1. La Controverse will be the first part of a quite tortuous path, since the original knot, in the end, seems not to melt. In fact, compared to the Reitzian feature film, aimed at rebuilding an erased and destroyed identity, for Lepage the challenge would be to create a brand new identity.  Today, national identity appears to be a goal that, in every European state, is pursued with a falsehood and hypocrisy worthy of a better cause, as if there were still a country that could boast one without spots or without tears. Moreover, the artistic partnership between Robert Lepage and Ariane Mnouchkine demonstrates Lepage’s esteem for an experience, such as that of the European colleague, of permanent research and movement, precisely to break away from the waste of a certain nineteenth century tradition.



Aware of what he would have expected, Lepage tries to narrate centuries of Canadian history and news. It does so starting from the oppressions and violence suffered by the natives. From here on he proceeds in a sort of self-conscious exercise of a people that speaks to itself.  With all the expected difficulties, the show presents an admirable idea of direction, based on that “social speed” that contrasts with the limits and the slowness of the historical vision. And the impression does not change in front of the guilty gaze towards minorities that are still resistant, the collective bewilderment in the face of the growing power of the Asian components, and perhaps a hidden feeling of Anglo-Saxon superiority towards those variously assimilated people who descend from European immigration poorer, the Italian one above all.

If this is the picture, a contemporary painting attempts to illustrate it starting with the meeting between Leyla, an art curator from Ottawa, and Jacques, director of a French museum interested in an exhibition on the natives. A banal sympathy between the two serves as an opportunity to move scene and spectators from Ontario to Vancouver, where Tanya lives, Leyla’s adopted Indian daughter and natural daughter of a social degradation that has its epicenter at Downtown Eastside, in that Hastings Street where prostitution and drug addiction are active, where madness and alcoholism find refuge. And I would add: where things go as they go around the world, in the two hemispheres, in the west and in the east, between the poor or the rich, where illness, compulsion and self-destruction have far less political roots than is believed. This is said to absolve us even less as individuals and not to hide behind flags and homelands anymore.

Canada is a great country, and this huge work by Robert Lepage proves it. But Canada will never be a perfect country, it will never resolve its contradictions, it will not erase its history either with a redemption project or with a perpetual compensation operation. And despite this, Canada will remain that beautiful national laboratory that is, where artists and scientists, urban planners and poets, immigrants and guests, will continue to live together civilly, before the opening and after the closing of the curtain of Kanata, which means village but which, on stage, he could also translate into stateless humanity. This is also part of a nation. There are citizens who never find a home, there are others who do not seek it. The important thing is that the doors remain open, or at least ajar.


Giuliano Compagno

Giuliano Compagno is a writer and playwright. He has published 23 volumes including novels, essays and collections of aphorisms. He has written for Giancarlo Cauteruccio’s, Solari / Vanzi’s and Marcello Cava’s theatre. He conceived, edited and wrote the librettos for four operas composed by Maestro Vittorio Montalti. It is closed to four philosopher thinkers and authors of the 20th century: Georges Bataille, Georges Perec, Marshall McLuhan and Mario Perniola.


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