Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Gallery: Postmodern Pantomime Phenomenon

James Thierrée and the ghosts of Sadler's Wells

Sadler’s Wells in London is one of the oldest theatres in the world. Originated as a pleasure garden around 1660, it is the witness of that fascinating era when, without categories or laws, performers and audiences made no distinction between singers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, equestrian vaulting masters or actors, in the name of fantasy and amazement. It was the birthplace of pantomime: the theatrical discipline that, to show the realms of unknown and magic, had as pillars early stage transformations and machinery, conjuring, clowning and Commedia at his bests, impossible acrobatic skills, water spectaculars, ballets and oversized props and costumes. It was the house of Joe Grimaldi, ancestor of modern clowns, that struggled onstage against giant animated vegetables when not dissapearing into mid-air traps.

Finally, at the end of XVIII century, three great modern genres simultaneously emerged from that world: opera, ballet, and circus.

Today, Sadler’s Wells is still surviving on the same place: a modern building, temple of contemporary dance. Next week, a show will unsuspectably bring back the surreal tradition of early pantomime, even in all his modernity: it is due to James Thierrée’s company, with his third acclamed show “Au Revoir Parapluie” (literally: “farewell umbrella”). The perfect nightmare for the Halloween weekend.

If you don’t know James, he is one of world’s foremost visual performers: writer, director, acrobat, mime, dancer, actor, etc. Just as his father Jean Baptiste and his mother Victoria Chaplin. Just as his grandfather Charles Chaplin. Who, at his turn, was the most talented son of the London victorian pantomime stage, being at turn was the direct artistic heir of the Sadler’s Well’s ancestors. So the circle today closes, going back for a couple of week to the Grimaldi era and his absurd nightmares and transformations.

We devote to this bizarre coincidence today’s gallery.

If you live on the other side of the Ocean, this very same show will be presented in early December at Brooklin Academy of Music.

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