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Review: Raoul

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You might never see as inspired a performance as James Thierree's in 'Raoul'

You might never see as inspired a performance as James Thierree's in 'Raoul'

You might never see as inspired a performance as James Thierree's in 'Raoul'

THIS might be the most beautiful thing you will ever see on the Abbey stage.

Some philanthropist should block-book the Abbey for the week and give the tickets to teenagers and people who've never been to the theatre.

And then they should persuade James Thierree to stay on for a few nights, and straight after the election they should send every politician in the country to see it.

Raoul is the theatrical equivalent of Kilkenny en route to a hurling All-Ireland. It is a thing of baffling skill and awesome athleticism. And like hurling for the uninitiated, it is bewildering, but beautiful.

It is created by James Thierree, a man of unrivalled theatrical aristocracy: his great grandfather was Eugene O'Neill and grandfather was Charlie Chaplin. His sister, Aurelia Thierree, brought another piece of theatrical magic, Aurelia's 'Oratorio', to the Abbey five years ago.

Raoul is (possibly) the story of a man's encounters with his subconscious, or his anxieties. There are (sort of) two Raouls, though only one performer. There are stunning images of shipwreck that may reference 'The Tempest'. Or maybe it's not a ship, in which case it may be referencing 'Mad Max'.

In the course of it, Thierree falls from a 14-foot height in slow motion, wrestles with his reflection, is buffeted by imaginary winds or waves, and dances with giant puppet-creatures (including a "depressive jellyfish").

He is a magnificent clown; permanently defeated, slightly melancholic, bewildered, earnest, frantic, vulnerable. Though he is the sole performer, he is never alone on stage. The set is alive: the walls talk to him.

It would be unjust to Thieree to reduce the climax to bald prose. It is, literally, a coup de theatre. It brought tears to my eyes.

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