Sunday, November 7, 2010

James Thierrée and/is Raoul

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My son is taught in his school how to write an essay: an introduction, a meatier middle with details and quotes, a conclusion. Thankfully this is a blog entry where everything is permissible. In no particular order but my fancy:

To me -
Raoul is James Thierrée's best show so far at BAM. By far.

His previous shows were esthetic, and had magic, but were not always buoyant with meaning. The form he has developed does come from circus which resolutely skirts any depth to provide weightless entertainment. And there's something to be said for that. Thierrée's new show manages to retain the acrobatics and antics of the circus and combine them with the expressivity of theater.

In Raoul, Thierrée dwells on the human condition. There's not much of a story, no linear narrative. As in life. At times, he waits for something to happen. We wait too. We wait together. Then nothing much happens.

An aspect of our human condition is control, which is a subject that I have been interested in, along with certainty, nostalgia, romanticism. Control of the body, control of the environment. His body gets out of control, whether his legs start running the other way, or his heart moves up and down his body. The joke is that as a performer, his control of movement is astounding. The loss of control of the environment is the base for many a circus jokes. He takes it further. The environment is entitled to escape human control. It subverts human narcissism.

The pure joy of James Thierrée expressing himself with an orchestra playing out of his mouth.

The pure joy of James Thierrée becoming double onstage under our very own eyes. He was one, then he's two. Trickster.

He gets away with doing the ultra cliché slo mo miming. I was astounded, I would have thought that was an impossibility. The beautiful, abstracted movements fit into the whole mood of the piece.

James Thierrée seems to make references to some of his grandfather's iconic movements, without becoming referential. A delight. Charlie Chaplin was a master when it came to not being in control.

In the end his humility, his utter commitment as a performer, his imagination, his lightness of body and soul is incredibly touching. The audience was rapt. James Thierrée gave a last dance of joy, the joy of being appreciated by its audience as the applause went on and on.

About imagery but not a conclusion to entry, see note about not a school essay:
The imagery Thierrée favors is popular with many creators, mainly European. Dust. Red velvet. Old toys, including mechanical birds. Mechanical anything for that matter. long skinny shapes, made out of metal. Spider webs. Derelict rooms. Moth eaten lace. Morbid. Quaint. Spooky. Feels a lot like grandma's attic, associated with the emotions a child might feel there: curiosity, fear, tenderness, loneliness. Plastic, modern technology, bright colors are proscribed. It gets a bit repetitive, as a vocabulary, something that would appeal to teenagers because it's easy and flattering.

Delicatessen, the film by Jeunot

A still from a film by the Quay brothers
Still from a Jan Svanmakjer film

A still from  a film by Jan Svankmajer
The Quay brothers

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