Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1
Opened 20 December, 2011

 Aurélia Thiérrée’s parents were among the pioneers of contemporary alternative circus, beginning in the 1970s with Le Cirque Imaginaire (later La Cirque Invisible). Thiérrée and her brother James have more recently followed in their footsteps with near-wordless visual pieces of their own. “Dreamlike” and “fantastical” are the kind of words often applied to these works, and less charitably “fey”.
The French title of Aurélia’s second show, Murmures des Murs, contains a significant and untranslatable pun. Much of the 75-minute piece involves walls of one kind or another: those of the apartments which Thiérrée’s character moves into and out of, those of city buildings which seem to slide on and offstage, as if even these most (literally) concrete objects were fluid and transitory; once there seems to be an entire ocean of masonry in which characters swim and perhaps drown, and once or twice a wall on a painted cloth is rolled up. As environments and locations shift endlessly, so do people and objects… and people made out of objects. A stepladder and some huge sheets of bubble-wrap become a vast, shaggy creature which takes a king Kong-like shine to Thiérrée; later, a pair of bellows perched atop an overcoat transform into a relative of Max Ernst’s bird-headed avatar Loplop.
Directed and designed by Thiérrée’s mother Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin, this is a sequence of moments rather than a distinguishable line or body of material. As far as I could divine, Thiérrée’s character, distressed at moving out of her flat, falls into a fantasy in which one figure (Jaime Martinez) is a kind of dream lover who has her literally dancing on air whilst another (Magnus Jakobsson), smitten with her, is always pursuing her but never catches up; all the while everything around them is in constant flux. That is, however, only one interpretation, for this is a work of which one can use the dread phrase, “It means whatever you want it to mean”. Personally, I am interested in what the Thiérrées want it to mean, but of that I could glean no clue. In the end, it is a matter of one’s willingness to buy into the style and mood of the piece. Fantastical or fey: you pays your money and you takes your choice.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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