Hayley Mayne - Australian Stage
Sit down, buckle your seatbelt and prepare for one hell of a ride! By the time you finish watching this production you will be exhausted and that's just from watching.
Spare a thought for Raoul's designer, director and performer James Thiérrée – because this man is the Energiser Bunny, on steroids. Performing what is in essence a one-man show he is in a constant state of motion. How he keeps up the physical exertion and remembers his next move is beyond me.
Thiérrée is more than just a triple threat. The extent of this man's talent seems endless. He is both a dancer, acrobat, magician and mime artist all rolled into one.
When you see the comic, fluid, impossible ways in which he moves his body, it comes as no surprise that he is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin. It is simply in the genes.
A visual feast, this show must have been a nightmare to produce. Lighting, sound, set, props and special effects must seamlessly blend together and be timed to perfection. With so many chances for error (and personal injury) the backstage crew must be having heart palpitations every night, yet Raoul was performed with absolute precision.
Performing a matinee and evening production Raoul attracts both adults and children. This surprised me given the manic nature of the show – the protagonist seems to be wrestling with his inner demons or suffering some kind of mental disorder. However the show comes across with a somewhat Roald Dahl feel – both dark and disturbing yet full of imagination and humour.
The set for Raoul is amazing, both larger than life and continually evolving. As the show begins we see Raoul's home, an imposing yet dilapidated structure made of large metal beams, not unlike a fortress. Raoul's conflict with himself starts immediately as he calls to the occupant of the house and requests entry. As his requests are ignored he begins to violently break-in, eventually wrestling with his doppleganger inside and dismantling half of his abode in the process.
From this moment on Raoul is unable to attain a moment's peace. Every attempt to carry out a normal existence (listen to music, read a book) is usurped by inanimate objects attacking him or his own body which refusing to do as it's told.
Then there are the weird and wonderful creatures that come to visit. A massive Mexican walking fish akin to a pet dog. A strange silverfish character that fights with Raoul. A ballet dancing jellyfish and a life-sized elephant which Raoul somehow fails to notice? Thiérrée's mother Victoria, Charlie Chaplin's daughter, produces all of these incredible animals.
As the show continues Raoul's inability to escape himself ends with the complete destruction of his abode and most of his personal belongings. You will be amazed and thrilled as you see him flying through the air, the foundations on which he relies collapsing around him.
Thiérrée was born in Switzerland and by the time he was four-years-old he was performing in his parent's circus Cirque Bonjour and later Le Cirque Imaginaire and Le Cirque Invisible. It was here that he learnt acrobatics, dance, trapeze and violin.
Raoul is his fourth show and follows on from his other creations La Symphonie du Hanneton, La Veillée des Abysses and Au Revoir Parapluie. Raoul debuted in London in 2009 and its performance as part of the Perth International Arts Festival is the Australian Premiere.
Despite a lengthy and sometimes repetitive performance, Perth audiences loved Raoul. As the show concluded they showed their appreciation with raucous and enthusiastic applause with half of them giving a standing ovation.
La Compagnie du Hanneton
Written and performed by James Thiérrée