Circus Review





A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Le Cirque Invisible


Victoria Chaplin and Jean Baptiste Thiérrée


Queen Elizabeth Hall


2 – 21 August 2011


Having seen this show before, I can only say that it’s even more enchanting second time round. There are many reasons for that, primary among them, the way in which it feeds the imagination. The tricks, jokes and illusions Jean Baptiste Thiérrée performs and the artistry of Victoria Chaplin’s wondrous fairytale transformations and old tyme artistry seem to be born of resourcefulness, so they touch on something that is in all of us, but in many, far too dormant. That explains the sense of longing and wistfulness the show conveys for adults and the delight of the children in the audience when they see Thiérrée and Chaplin playing together and on their own onstage, in ways that they themselves might do.

It’s the old adage of the baby, playing with the box the toy came in rather than the toy itself. We actually find more charm in imagination, than anything else, as it’s where we naturally live, when we’re really at home. That would account for the childish squeals around me when Thiérrée blew bubbles at one point, though he’d enacted many humourous sight gags before that. But as they say, the play’s the thing!

Sound effects and music play their part, especially in a scenes where Thiérrée is playing musical bubbles or better still, singing, when he literally wears his operatic chorus on his knees, as he comically lip synchs the lead, But it his canny sleight of hand which captivates the crowd the most, as he turns doves into confetti or changes a tiny rabbit into an oversized one. ‘How did he do it?’ a man was overheard asking behind me, as Thiérrée did his own twist on the old ‘saw the woman in half’ trick, with Chaplin gracing his magician’s box.

But Chaplin makes her own beautiful music, via the myriad of goblets, dishes and brandy snifters on her intricate one woman band costume, and her uncanny sense of timing, also put to good use in her many marvelously executed transformations from woman to creature and back again, through the use of ingeniously designed costumes, fabric, parasols, bicycle parts, you name it. It really makes you look at everything around you anew, for its’ creative potential.

Together, Chaplin and Thiérrée form a uniquely independent troupe of two, with a myriad of possibilities between them. There’s never a moment when you wish there were more, these two being more amply suited to circus, illusion and the polishing of their audience’s imaginations than an army of lesser practitioners and purveyors of magnetism, mayhem and magic. There is a strange order to Thiérrée’s comic chaos and a ethereal beauty to Chaplin’s imaginings and focus and their mutual absorption in their arts – he that of whimsy and surprise, she, of grace and wonder. Together, they make Le Cirque Invisible a congenially freeing triumph – low tech and small perhaps by today’s inflated standards, but the best things come in cult packages. Smiles abounded when fast changer Thiérrée announced an interval after he and Chaplin played mouth organs to accompany a singing goose, whose fellow birds joined her onstage for a chorus.

As has often been the case, (even with Edison) an originator’s worth is underestimated in the annals of time, as showier versions of what he/she has done surpass them in the public’s consciousness. Yet, the artist carries on, oblivious to all but his beloved art and those who understand and appreciate it. This contorted view lends their art a tinge of nostalgia, oft overriding the credit they so rightfully deserve.
This show has all the excitement of a secret rummage in a vaudevillian’s trunk with its props, costumes and sense of anticipation intact, seemingly, springing to colourful life thereafter. It’s a sourcebook (rather than textbook) for contemporary circus – animal friendly, laden with intricate details, rich in symbolism, absurdist and funny, yet still, seemingly, travelling light, like an al fresco dream. Le Cirque Invisible is a lovely, multi-faceted cacophony of arts - graceful, witty and lovingly crafted – a veritable circus feast.


Editor’s Note: It’s all in the family as they say, and many of you will already be aware of the success of the talented son of this wonderfully imaginative duo of Victoria Chaplin and James Baptiste Thiérrée, James Thiérrée, whose shows at various top venues around London have sold out whenever he appears. So much so, that we have yet to see him perform…But, you will soon have a chance to see his uniquely talented sister, Aurelia Thiérrée, whose show, Aurelia’s Oratorio, directed and designed by her mother, Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin, we saw, (and loved) some years ago at Lyric Hammersmith.

You’d be wise to buy your tickets for Aurelia’s upcoming show – Murmurs, again, written and directed by her gifted mother, at Southbank Centre which heads to London over this Christmas ASAP. Info here:
Southbank Centre - Queen Elizabeth Hall
Belvedere Road
Box Office: 0844 875 0073

20 Dec. – 2 Jan. – Queen Elizabeth Hall


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