With Raoul, James Thiérrée (designer, director and performer) of Companie du Hanneton has set a new standard. A standard of theatrical performance that will make some artists throw up their hands in a maelstrom of emotion, and others lifetime-inspired.
Thiérrée is the winner of four Moliere awards (France’s highest achievement in theatre) and the son of the groundbreaking circus theatre makers Jean-Baptiste & Victoria Thiérrée (Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, Eugene O’Neil’s grand-daughter), together credited for the inspiration of Cirque de Soliel.
This rich history and exploration in theatre is undeniably evident in Raoul, and for this the audience were imploringly grateful. For the entire 100 minutes of this sublime piece of theatre, the audience were enthralled as they watched this accessible artistic joy. The standing ovation and enormous applause was instantaneous and sustained for possibly the longest I’ve experienced in theatre as audience and performer.
I didn’t want to leave the world of Raoul, an impossibly lonely man in a fantastical world of common objects and textures. Encountering creatures, his nightmares and dreams, Thiérrée explores human duality. This duality grows exponentially until the audience is a reflection of Raoul. It is intellectual but (as with Chaplin) unknowingly so as it is hilarious discovering the minutiae of human experience, enlarged with precise physicality that reminds us of the moment we couldn’t get comfortable in a chair. We laugh at ourselves, through Raoul, at a memory that merely frustrated us in our solitude.
The precision and ease of the technical integration with the performer does not expose the difficulty of the task to be repeated every performance. The team of Victoria Thiérrée (costume & animal design), Thomas Delot (sound), Jerome Sabre (lighting), the stage managers and technical crew are to be equally commended beside Thiérrée.
“Raoul is the finest, most beautiful and engaging theatre I have ever seen… It ought to be on your bucket list”
Thiérrée’s performance is unquestionable. He is an actor in his own right and possesses through his craft what many never achieve. He is totally engaging and charismatic due largely to what he doesn’t do, along with the fluidity and precision of his physicality. Both, of which, most actors never grasp. The result is an audience that never leaves the preset moment to think about or imagine other things. There were momets of tears, myself included, and laughter. There was so much laughter that never felt manipulated.
Raoul is the reason I came to the festival and it exceeded my extraordinarily high expectations. Raoul is the finest, most beautiful and engaging theatre I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen and can’t see it at the Adelaide Festival, then purchase flights and accommodation to their next destination. It ought to be on your bucket list.