Au Revoir Parapluie
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
December 4, 2007
Stop reading this right now, go to bam.org and get tickets for this show. If you know any children, get each of them a ticket too—it will immortalize you in their memory years on end, that amazing show you brought them to see that expanded their imaginations beyond any heretofore seen parameters. They will thank you.
And if you can't make it while they're at BAM, book your tickets to Sydney. Yes, Australia. You know you've been meaning to get there— it's the next stop on their tour.
In other words: this is one you do not want to miss.
I'm serious. Au Revoir Parapluie (Farewell, Umbrella) is simply inspiring, the dream from which you won't want to wake. Not since reading C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia as a child have I gone on a more fantastical journey into a timeless and fully captivating world.
James Thiérrée and company are masters of craft. Of the five-person ensemble, each is the best at one thing (as I called them: the Singer, the Bouncer, the Aerialist, the Clown, and the Vaudevillian). But over the course of about 90 minutes they play together, crossing all boundaries. Play. Really play. Boundless energy shoots them up, down, all around, and back up and down again over the stage of the Harvey Theatre.
Dancer Kaori Ito, a sprite with the unrelenting energy of a new puppy and the cherubic face of pure joy, is an anthropomorphized Superball. Aerialist Satchie Noro moves vertically on the ropes as if simply swimming. The voice of singer Maria Sendow is powerful and poignant, and her surprising costumes and characters a delight. And Magnus Jakobsson is the consummate circus clown—deadpan humor and dexterous agility. Nothing makes me laugh harder than someone falling down (I enjoy the simple things, sometimes!) and at this, among other things, he is a genius.
And then there is Thiérrée, nimble and, at times, seemingly skeleton-free: ringmaster, clown, and silent film star rolled into one.
The audience sits, collectively enthralled, like a child who has not yet developed a sense of object permanence, excitedly anticipating what surprise will come next, who will fly where, in what magical contraption they'll ride next on stage.
They incorporate numerous styles of movement: acrobatics, tumbling, aerial work, ballet, mime, and full-blown running with vaudevillian, clowning, slapstick humor and a sprinkling of operatic vocals. There are no words beyond the singing, which if my ear serves is in Italian (it doesn't matter—it's haunting and gorgeous), and though there is not a straight story, per se, I was completely riveted.
And connoisseurs of design take special note. The seamless incorporation of light, set, and sound in Au Revoir, Parapluie is unparalleled. Transitions come fast and furious, yet go nearly unnoticed, as the action never ceases. Just past midway, we are swept away from the dreamscape jumble of a giant mop-head (which serve as the Silks on which the aerial tricks are performed) and industrial oversized fishhooks to a serene, if not ultimately treacherous, skating pond, with reeds and a woman-sized fish. It is here where Thiérrée's skill is most deft—the miming of slipping on the ice had my jaw on the floor for the duration of the piece. Oh, those feet!
So just what is it about? If you must know, I'll take it straight from the notes of the creator:
It's a story about a story (about a story about a story about a story…) that cannot be told. It's a very intimate story, and therefore very demure, almost wild! … Burning the candle at both ends, round we go again! … Getting old. Getting young. … Life! Hope! Escape! whoops! Obstinacy!
Yes. That's exactly what I saw.