At PuSh Festival, Le Cri des Méduses transports haunting French painting to the stage — Stir

WHEN FRENCH ROMANTIC painter Théodore Géricault first revealed Le Radeau de la Meduse (The Raft of the Medusa) in 1819, people were shocked. Inspired by the true story of its namesake doomed naval ship that had run aground off the coast of Senegal three years earlier, the five-by-seven-metre masterpiece depicts people on a makeshift life raft in a clear state of weakness and despair. Because of a shortage of lifeboats, 146 of the Medusa’s 400 passengers endured 13 days adrift, the lack of food and water leading to in-fighting, murder, and cannibalism. To achieve the work’s brutal realism, Géricault had studied cadavers and brought home severed limbs and heads from the local morgue. Dramatic and macabre, the painting captured the imagination of Quebec City-based choreographer, director, visual artist, and performer Alan Lake when he saw it at the Louvre. The artistic director of Alan Lake Factorie transports the painting to the stage Le cri des meduseswhich is having its Western Canadian premiere in Vancouver at the PuSh Festival.

On the line from his Quebec studio, Lake explains how he became fascinated by the historical event upon seeing the powerful painting, with its larger-than-life human suffering.

“I love to jump back into the story,” Lake tells Stir. “The painting is so evocative, and it makes you think of what all those people were facing. How do humans go from helping each other to cannibalism to survive in just a few days? I wanted to jump into this story not as a narrative but as a living painting—a tableau vivant. I call this theater of image.”

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