Review: Tabac Rouge

Sunday 18th January 2015, 5pm

The images are not my images and I acknowledge the ownership of those images belongs to Toupee of Tabac Rouge, Compagnie du Hanneton.

One of the world’s greatest circus performers, James Thierrée has lured Sydney audiences inside his surreal imagination three times before, in The Junebug Symphony, Bright Abyss and Au Revoir Parapluie – but nothing will quite prepare you for the sublime pandemonium that awaits you in Tabac Rouge.

Tabac Rouge, Thierrée’s latest creation, is an opium hallucination on a breathtaking scale. Thierrée plays a once glorious ruler held captive in a hall of mirrors, haunted by visions of his own downfall and surrounded by the exhilarating frenzied movements and contortions of his subjects.

A vibrant carnival of circus, dance and theatre that builds to an unforgettable climax, Tabac Rouge is an assault of stunning imagery, ideas and atmospherics. It evokes everything from Alice in Wonderland and King Lear to Hieronymus Bosch – but we promise you’ve seen nothing like it.

One scene prop set created and moved around the stage on wheels. It is made of several scaffolds into random grid and the double sided mirror metal sheets was attached to the rods as shown in the images. One side will have square/rectangle mirrors and the other side will be all rods. The scene is often switched and moved across the stage.

I sat in the perfect spot of seeing everything – Row K, seat number 18. Since I was on my own, I came in early to sit down. While I was waiting for the show, I was watching the mirrors and people started walking in and sitting down. Beautiful image that stirs your imagination.

On the stage, it felt like they weren’t ready – all three lighting rods was on the stage ready to be hauled up, ropes still hanging down. It sets the image of unpreparedness of madness.

Tabac Rouge transports the audience to the dark and delirious world of a disillusioned ruler, a King Lear or Prospero, haunted by images of beauty and chaos. Mirrors, mystery, movement and music combine to create a ‘choreodrama’ which Thiérrée describes as being about “desire, power, systems and mechanisms of society, and of how people organise themselves.”

Amongst the clutter of old furnitures and brass on wheels are often wheeled around the stage, the dancers are like minions weaving a physically daring production fulfilled with spectacular theatrics. The dancers rise, fall reflect and refract using the mirrors on stage – moving in and out of the enormous set. The set is constructed from several scaffold of pipes, brass, mirrors and wheels which much becomes the show as the casts becoming integrated with the set.

Tabac Rouge is a mixture of madness, politics, joyousness and humorous through it epic blend of circus, dance and theatre. It was alluring and stunning to watch – the pull into their imagination playground was powerful.

I was hoping to see more of James’ circus work although this show moved into more of a physical theatre approach. Overall I enjoyed the show very much.


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