Charlie Chaplin’s talented grandson will bring his latest show, Tabac Rouge, to Australia next year.

Sydney Festival favourite James Thierrée is to headline 2015’s lineup with his largest and most extravagant work yet. The cryptically titled Tabac Rouge has tended to flummox reviewers abroad, who have ended up grasping for oxymorons: a “beautiful beast of a show”; a “grand and virtually silent opera”; “a feast of visual poetry”. Festival Director Lieven Bertels however, is confident that Sydneysiders will flock to this ambitious conflation of circus, physical theatre and illusion.

Thierrée, acrobat, musician, dancer, actor, mime and choreographer, is hailed as one of the most creative contemporary circus performers in the world. Coming from talented lineage, he is the son of circus performers Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée, grandson of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandson of Eugene O’Neill.

The Sydney Festival is proud to present this Australian exclusive and work with Thierrée for the 2015 season. “In his largest work to date, James Thierrée not only shines in the lead role but also demonstrates his skills as a choreographer,” says Bertels. “The show explores a world somewhere between the silent cinema classic Modern Times and a Jeroen Bosch painting – sometimes dazzling and funny, sometimes alienating and grotesque, but always hypnotic.”

Fronting the production as performer, director, choreographer and set designer, Thierrée will be joined by a skilled cast of performers that bring to life a dark and delirious world ruled by a disillusioned leader reminiscent of King Lear or Prospero. The enormous set, “la treme”, itself becomes as much a character as the cast, adorned with mirrors and moving in a way that reflects the unsettled nature of a ruler who is haunted by images of beauty and chaos.

The dystopian piece is described by Thierrée as a “choreodrama” that explores “desire, power, systems and mechanisms of society, and of how people organise themselves.” The production pushes the boundaries of conventional dance, circus and theatre, with physically daring choreography that consumes the stage.

Costume design, by his sister Victoria Thierrée, perfectly complements the atmosphere of the production, which cleverly interweaves music ranging from Matthieu Chédid to Pergolesi. The ensuing dreamlike ambience evokes Thierrée’s vision of a world of endless invention and fantasy.

A tour of the UK generated somewhat mixed reviews, despite celebration of the creative direction and awe at the balance of “fright and delight”.

Tabac Rouge is the fourth production Thierrée brings to Sydney Festival, following Junebug Symphony (2003), Bright Abyss (2006) and Au Revoir Parapluie (2008) in sell-out seasons.

Sydney Festival 2015 will run from 8 – 26 January. Tickets are available through the Sydney Festival website.

Subscribe to Limelight - AWO Offer