By Sarah Cruickshank
This week, Gold Mountain, a story told by David Yee about his father’s epic journey from a small village in China to war-torn Liverpool, is showing on The Cultch stage. With dazzling visuals and a powerful score, this show will transport you back in time, leaving you mesmerized long after you leave the theatre.
We were lucky to catch up with Michel Robidoux, Co-Artistic Director of Les Deux Mondes in Montréal, and composer of Gold Mountain. Michel shared some behind-the-scenes insight into the creative process of Gold Mountain and the audio and visual inspiration for the show.
Behind the inspiration for the music of Gold Mountain
Les Deux Mondes is a touring company, and Michel is always sure to bring his sound recorder whenever he’s traveling to capture the sounds that he finds inspiring. Sometimes they are ambient sounds that he transforms into rhythmic and polyphonic recordings on his computer once he’s home.
When asked about his inspiration for the music for Gold Mountain, Michel responds, “Well it happened a bit by chance. We were on tour in China and I recorded lots of sounds there. When we were approached with Gold Mountain by David Yip and Kevin Wong, it seemed very interesting. For me, I already had a lot of Chinese inspired material, so it was a wonderful opportunity to integrate the music I had composed.”
Rehearsing Gold Mountain
Work on Gold Mountain started when David Yip and Kevin Wong traveled to Montréal to talk through the 24 short scenes they had written. Explains Michel, “After they left, I started to work with the music to go with the short scenes we had. Yves Dubé would then assemble some video footage after listening to the music.” Things really got rolling after a three day workshop with the actors in Liverpool where they recorded voice-overs of the actors, so they could work with the recordings back in Montréal.
“After coming back to Montréal, we would start to work with visuals and putting music with the voice-overs, and ultimately we built a template for the 24 short scenes.” This template was something they could work with to develop the show, even though the actors weren’t there. One of the challenges they faced in the process was lengthening the 24 short scenes into a full-length production, and according to Michel, “we did this by using visuals and music to bridge the gap between the dialogue.”
Rehearsals began once the folks at Les Deux Mondes were joined by the actors in Montréal, and as Michel explains, they would work in loops, “going through the scenes from beginning to end, then starting all over again.” Every time they passed through the scenes, things would change. As Michel says, “it’s a very live and instinctive way of working together. It’s interesting to work like this as everyone is open to what everyone else is doing.”
When pressed further about the idea of rehearsing in loops, Michel goes on to explain, “Sometimes let’s say for instance I have a beautiful musical score for a scene and I thought it would fit perfectly. But when we run through the loop, it doesn’t fit anymore. It’s nice music and I love it but no, it doesn’t fit anymore. The show kicked it out.”
So, with Gold Mountain now showing at The Cultch, how does Michel hope all the technical elements will come together to emotionally move and transport the audience? “The idea is that they forget about it, that it enhances the storytelling and that it’s so smooth that you stay in the story. We want the show not to be didactic, not to be dry. We want it to be fascinating!”