Adelaide Festival Theatre. 1 Mar 2012

La Compagnie du Hanneton
Designed, directed and performed by: James Thiérrée

Raoul is a one man show which would make an interesting study on how we (humanity that is) communicate and interpret meaning. Running for 100 minutes without interval, actor James Thiérrée uses fewer than ten spoken words – yet we understand every minute of this philosophical exploration of one’s existence – through physicality, music and expression.

Ranging somewhere between Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean, Seinfeld’s Kramer, The Australian Dance Theatre and Cirque du Soleil – Thiérrée is a physical comic genius. Let’s face it, if the grandson of Charlie Chaplin didn’t get some talent in his blood line people might talk.

But is it a comedy? Or is it a humorous tragedy? The hero eventually loses everything. His home, his possessions and finally his mind, and it’s difficult not to feel sorry for him. Evidence of Raoul’s loneliness is clear right from the outset, and his relationship with mundane items and passing apparitions (a range of amazing, albeit occasionally unnecessary, puppets) gives a pretty good indication that connection and love are long missing from a life.

Despite Thiérrée’s solo performance he does not act alone.  The set is alive, the lighting a dear and cooperative friend, the sound effects – separate to the music, but only as a character – play too, and all work together so harmoniously that the production never becomes stilted, un-interesting or overly self-absorbed.

As Raoul, Thiérrée plays with his audience – literally, interacting and responding to them, incorporating them and clowning with them. His control over his body is spectacular, and the way he uses it to communicate with his audience is stunning. Single-handedly Thiérrée fills the Festival Theatre stage to its edges.

Raoul is capricious and his story fanciful. The narrative is strong enough to carry the show, but it is the visual spectacle which lifts it high into the rafters.

Beg, borrow, buy or steal a ticket to this show – but do experience it. The Evening Herald critic quoted in the program stated that if you were to miss this show, you should “prepare to put up with everyone else telling you how good it was”, and I suspect that will be the case here in Adelaide too.

Paul Rodda

When: 1 Mar - 6 Mar
Where: Adelaide Festival Centre - Festival Theatre
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au