Over Mother’s Day weekend my sister and I decided to treat Mama Ballerina Botziou to a night of “epic dream-like dance spectacles” with a performance of Tabac Rouge at Sadlers Wells Theatre.
Described as “one of Europe’s most inventive and unclassifiable artists”, French choreographer (and interestingly the grandson of Charlie Chaplin) James Thierree has created a fascinating world of mystery, mirrors, music and movement.
Thierree puts himself into the lead role, a sort of manic King/Professor of a very chaotic world, who doesn’t appear to be even remotely interested in his busy cohort and just wants to sit on his chair and puff on his pipe.
Plenty of scaffolding, a jungle of cables, desks filled with junk and a huge mirrored sheeting on wheels makes for an imposingly dark set, which the dancers hurl themselves around to snatches of classical music interspersed with electrical static and crackly radio recordings.
The choreography is a muddle of contemporary movement and contortionism, with some slow-motion moon-walking-type action thrown in. One contortionist resembled the horribly twisted ghost-like girl that emerges from the television screen in The Ring…for no reason whatsoever.
There were some clever moments and an interesting beat-boxing scene from Thierree himself as he attempts to put his plethora of ideas down on paper, although I felt that some sequences went on for too long and became slightly tedious.
There may indeed have been some narrative underneath all the poetic theatrics but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what it was.
When asked by an interviewer what the show was about, Thierrée is quoted as answering: “At that time, we were often wandering in the air, and unmistakably touching the bottom. What really matters is to keep digging, whatever the price.”
Well I dug hard, and I still couldn’t find the bottom…
Still, Tabac Rouge was unlike any other dance performance I have seen and if you like the weird and the sombrely odd then this production might be right up your street.