Infused with a childlike imagination, James Thiérrée’s exceptional artistry returns to Chicago Shakespeare for the American premiere of his new work Farewell Umbrella (Au Revoir Parapluie)—an acrobatic and inventive spectacle that has received standing ovations throughout Europe.
Approximate Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
"Thiérrée’s artistry is reason alone to fight for a ticket
to one of the Chicago performances."
– Chicago Tribune
" As the curtain falls, everyone in the theatre is on their feet, demanding one more set of bows from the sweat-drenched company of acrobats, aerialists and musicians"
– The Guardian (UK)
"The label ‘contemporary circus’ doesn’t do justice to his heart-stopping work, which weaves poetic reverie, fantastical comedy, insouciant acrobatics and dance."
– The Times (UK)
"James Thiérrée has created a fantasy world that’s a breath of air so fresh it will take your own away."
– Evening Standard (UK)
Additional project funding provided by Dick and Lou Hurckes, with grant support from the Julius Frankel Foundation, The Rhoades Foundation and Étant donné: The French-American Fund for the Performing Arts, a program of FACE.
Farewell Umbrella (Au Revoir Parapluie) is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
Striking images, captivating performances, and surprising events combine the surreal and the ordinary to create an astonishing evening of theater. The work of theater artist James Thiérrée does not have a conventional narrative structure. Lyrical, fanciful, and unexpected, Goodbye Umbrella uses non-verbal expression-dance, mime, circus arts, singing and instrumental music-to tell a loosely structured story about love: what we do to get it, to hold on to it, and the consequences of its loss.
Transforming physically and visually, the stage repeatedly fills with giant, swinging iron hooks, billowing cloth, fields of grass, and cascading badminton birdies. Endlessly inventive, the five performers swing from the hooks, transform into a giant, keening grasshopper, and fight a duel with blades of wheat. A magician makes invisible props disappear. A girl hides from her father by climbing on his back. A man dances a duet with an oversized rocking chair. The performers appear from an enormous twirling bundle of ropes, are buried in it, relax on top of it.
In the world created by James Thiérrée, silliness juts up against sublime beauty and heart-stopping acrobatics. The world unfolds and evolves, by turns meditative, hilarious, enthralling and mysterious, permeated by a sense of loss and longing.
James Thiérrée, it can be said, was raised in the circus. His parents are the renowned "nouveau cirque" innovators Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée and Victoria Chaplin; Charlie Chaplin is his grandfather and Eugene O'Neill is his great-grandfather. Intent on reinventing the circus, Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée created Cirque Bonjour in France in the 60s. He was joined in 1970 by Victoria Chaplin, and the couple, as Le Cirque Imaginaire and then as Le Cirque Invisible, continues to tour internationally.
James Thiérrée and his sister Aurélia appeared in their parents' circus, debuting as suitcases that sprouted legs and walked away. Trained as an acrobat, trapeze artist, dancer, violinist, and dramatic actor, (including a stint at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano), in 1998 Thiérrée founded La Compagnie du Hanneton to create his own work. The company's first production, Junebug Symphony, was followed by the critically acclaimed Bright Abyss, presented at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the fall of 2005.
Cirque nouveau may have its closet and most well-known expression in North America in the Cirque du Soleil. Drawing on old circus techniques, Cirque du Soleil uses no ring or animal acts and is scored with music throughout. Their shows have a unifying storyline or theme. They depart from the European tradition however, with their technical complexity and large scale. James Thiérrée, while using old and new traditions of the circus arts as a point of departure, creates his own style of visual and physical theater.