Victoria Laurie - The Australian
WHAT would it be like to live in a world where a photograph has its own sound? Or where spaces have their own radio frequencies, or chairs turn into crabs that fight off invaders?
Such flights of fancy are just an inkling of what goes on in James Thierree's mind, odd thoughts the lone performer transforms into exquisitely mimed interludes in Raoul.
This multi-artform show (Thierree relies on a four-person team of behind-the-scenes manipulators) explores the dreams and nightmares of Raoul, a lonely Everyman who lives in a bower-like retreat. His home is under attack by unseen demons and thrilling, mischievous creatures -- a fin-flapping fish that nuzzles him, an ethereal jellyfish that dances a pas de deux. They goad the reluctant hero out into the world, as his bower of gauze-shrouded pipes is ripped apart.
You'll hate Raoul if you've entirely lost touch with a child's playfulness. It informs Thierree's deliberately wordless (but music-filled) world, in which Raoul's quixotic jousting with hostile elements leads to an uplifting, dreamy denouement.
Thierree's performance is phenomenal, a physical tour de force of comic mime, agile dance, aerial acrobatics and classic Michael Jackson style moonwalking, along with a seemingly infinite set of other skills.
He's also a natural instructor; in Raoul, he re-educates us by gently turning our love of individual tricks (such as applauding a circus performer) towards an appreciation of the complete world of imagination he is attempting to create.
That world is conjured from ordinary objects and a billowing backdrop of grubby sailcloth, as theatre has always been made.
It requires an audience, and our presence is reflected in a crossing-the-line interaction that lesser artists could not pull off.
We are given odd glimpses behind the facade, to remind us that illusion works only if we each invest our imaginations in it.
As a burly assistant comes on stage to move a ladder, Raoul comically tries to hide him behind a bit of red plush curtain. Here's how theatre is made, Thierree is saying, and isn't it still wonderful?
At the start of Raoul, people were clapping delightedly in response to individual sleights of hand or pratfalls.
By the end, we were rising from our seats to applaud something altogether different -- a rare theatrical phenomenon.