I spent part of this weekend with what seemed like almost everybody else in Ottawa: watching La Machine. And I’m not kidding about the “almost everybody else” thing, either. Apparently attendance of the street theater production on Saturday (when we went) was 250,000 to 300,000 people, and the crowds over the four-day run was around 750,000. Keep in mind that the population of the city is just over a million. It would be drastically understating things to say that La Machine was well-attended.
So what’s the story of this performance? From the Ottawa 2017 website:
From the ninth level of heaven, Long Ma —- a cosmic creature who is half-horse, half-dragon—keeps watch over humanity. But a sinister force that has taken the form of a giant spider slips into his home as he sleeps, burning his wings and robbing his sacred temple. From this time forth, the Dragon-Horse roams the seven seas in search of his missing temple.
The giant spider, Kumo, takes refuge in Ottawa, the mother-city of all spiders. Buried deep beneath the waves, the temple remains concealed. But the recent work undertaken by the city to build Ottawa’s new transit line has disturbed Kumo, and she is forced to emerge from the ground. Her power depleted, the spider becomes vulnerable and loses control of the temple, which reappears in the city. Alerted by this apparition, Long Ma sets out on the route taken by Champlain several centuries earlier, with the intention of recovering his temple of travel, a shrine that he alone has the power to properly restore.
So on Saturday we headed downtown to City Hall to check out the sleeping Long Ma (the dragon horse):
Apparently Long Ma breathes smoke in his sleep.
We took a break for dinner and walked over to The Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. I have dined there before on several occasions, and I have yet to order something there I disliked. Given the massive crowds downtown for the La Machine performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s short wait time (about 15 minutes for a table inside, right at dinner hour), prompt service, and quick turnaround on food. I honestly was expecting everything to take forever no matter where we ended up. Considering that some restaurants ran out of food, my fear was not unfounded.
After dinner we walked down to the Supreme Court of Canada to check out Kumo (the giant spider):
Then we took a quick walk back to the intersection Elgin St and Queen St to stake out a spot to watch Long Ma walk by:
Long Ma turns north from Albert St onto Elgin St.
Long Ma walking up Elgin St. Thing 2 took this photo with my phone while sitting on my shoulders. You can really get an idea of the scale of the crowds.
Thing 1 took this photo as well.
After Long Ma passed us, we put our cameras away and joined the rest of the crowd in following the dragon on his walk down Wellington St to the Supreme Court. Once Long Ma turned the corner to the courtyard for the main performance, we couldn’t see him live anymore and had to watch most of the performance on one of the giant screens. However, we did get close enough by the end of the performance to see him get his wings back through the trees, and to watch Kumo jet water, and to witness the “snow” falling. My kids were enthralled. I was somewhat less spellbound, as I had to carry a child on my shoulders for more than an hour and that’s a bit distracting, but it was still a wonderful show. We even got to see the dragon and the spider from a bit closer after things ended, once the crowds started to thin.
All in all, we got home around midnight tired, hungry, and footsore. But would I do it again? Heck yes, I would. This is the stuff that memories are made of.