Theatre, its free imagination

Published in The Brag, Issue 242, Dec 2008.


Its coming up to that time, where after almost a year of starvation, Sydneysiders gorge themselves stupid for a summer cramped full of theatre, music and dance. One such feast will be James Thierree’s Au Revoir Parapluie show at the Sydney Festival.

Described as everything from acrobat, violinist, dancer and mime, James Thierree is also the director of his company’s new show, ‘an intimate tale of love that winds backwards through time’.

Its difficult to know what to expect from this as Thierree’s work is often described as magical, chaotic, and having its own internal logic which dissolves reality. But from a motel on a winter night in Chicago, Thierree tells me “it’s the expression of chaos that’s in my mind. I don’t describe it because the whole purpose is that people can read into it whatever they want. If I say its about ‘lost love’ they sit down and look for those patterns and they are not going to see them so clearly because it is still a visual and physical show”.

But that said, Thierree reassures that its not all about obscurity of meaning, “I try to put some leads in so people can still take the journey, if its too chaotic then its complicated for people’s attention to stay focussed. Its important for someone to be able to follow something, even if they don’t understand.”

Au Revoir Parapluie is said to be about spectacular theatrics, dazzling visuals and a netherworld of giant fish, fishhooks and ropes and contraptions, but for Thierree it’s not this technical production that’s important, “its just five people on stage” he says, “and its mainly about how we interact with each other in simple ways. I try to keep the spirit of a small company, where we have to just make things with our heads, and our hearts. I make the show personal. I trust this idea – that if we are sincere and honest in the way we do things, people will appreciate that.”

James Thierree is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin and has been steeped in the world of theatre and circus since the age of four. “Its such a mysterious thing, the theatre”, says Thierree thoughtfully, “that for thousands of years people go and watch other people”. He pauses and before adding “its weird.  But I guess it survived all this time for some reason, it is essential”.

For him, the lesson of his history is  to come back to simplicity. “I feel you can dig very deep into simple ideas” he explains, “much more than if you make a mental construction about something.”

Inspiring his shows is an idea of fragility. Thierree sounds sincere and convincing when he says, “life is fragile, you cannot secure yourself so much, it’s just a belief I have. If you go on tour, and you start to just go into a routine, it’s the death. I know it’s the death of what I do”.

Thierree goes on to tell me that he likes the energy he feels when he comes to Sydney, that he senses a real excitement and curiosity. For us, the audience, we know we have something to be excited about when Thierree’s philosophy with his artists is; “its tonight. These people have paid their ticket, and they are not going to come back, it’s the only time they are going to see the show. We have no right to just reproduce for them”.





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