Finally today, a theater performance with few words, magic, and global appeal. It’s called “Aurelia’s Oratorio.” Since 2003, it’s been staged — and well-received — all over the world. Now it’s showing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The World’s Adeline Sire spoke to the French star and co-creator of “Aurelia’s Oratorio.”
Aurelia’s world is not permeable to reality. That’s made clear when Aurelia ignores the voice of man on her answering machine urging her to pick up the phone.
In fact we don’t know who or where Aurelia is. Until she finally emerges lazily…. out of a chest of drawers on the stage.
Thanks to her visual tricks and acrobatics, Aurelia seems to come out of the drawers limb by limb. It’s comical, and visually mind-boggling, as is the entire performance. The character “Aurelia” is Aurelia Thierree in real life. And she comes from an illustrious line of entertainers.
“Aurelia’s Oratorio” is the brain child of Aurelia Thierree’s mother, Victoria Chaplin Thierree. She is one of Charlie Chaplin’s daughters.
She lives in France. And with her French husband, Jean-Baptiste Thierree, she dreamed up a new kind of circus in the 1970s. No animal tricks — but lots of acrobatics, dance, and aerial numbers. It’s visually playful, mysterious, and whimsical. It’s the kind of performance that gave birth to new circuses like Cirque du Soleil.
Aurelia Thierree was born into this show business….and almost on stage.
“I was born premature and my mother was still doing the show, and I met someone who was in the audience when her water broke.”
Thierree grew up on the road, touring 5 months out of the year throughout Europe, and living in a trailer with her parents and her younger brother James.
“And it was fun I mean I miss waking up and looking out of my little plastic window and checking out the landscape. Mostly it was parking lots….. (laugh) but then it was Italy, and it was Spain…. it was fun.”
Inevitably, she began performing at an early age. That may be especially true for “Aurelia’s Oratorio.” There are lot of unpredictable props… They create a topsy-turvy world that was inspired by a book of medieval drawings.
In the upside down world of “Aurelia’s Oratorio,” flowers are placed in a vase head down, a kite flies a person, and laundry is hung out to dry… only to be watered on the rack.
And the props seem to have a mind of their own. Objects thrown into the wings boomerang back onto the stage. In this show, no one wears clothes — the clothes wear you. Dresses, suits and coats appear out of nowhere, wrap, dress and chase the actors on stage.
They lead to dance numbers with Aurelia or her partner, Jaime Martinez. And the set has a very strong and haunting presence too.
In one scene, Aurelia is hanging between the curtains that frame the stage, way up high, when a wind storm begins to shake the entire set.
Even though Aurelia seems in jeopardy, she looks amused.
The show looks like the world of a mischievous child, full of freakish creatures, both comical and frightening.
It’s a surreal world that some have compared to the paintings of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte. There are many poetic elements in it, like the scene in which Aurelia plays an old Italian song on alarm clocks old and new.
There is no dialogue in “Aurelia’s oratorio. Its wordless dreamy quality is what gives the performance universal appeal. But Thierree says the experience changes — depending on the venue.
“Aurelia’s Oratorio” will head out to Australia and California in the Fall. This week, Aurelia Thierree is performing her show at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts — where her parents first performed two decades ago.
For The World, I’m Adeline Sire.