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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In Context: Tabac Rouge

Physical theater virtuoso James Thierrée's Tabac Rouge comes to BAM on September 30. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #TabacRouge.

Curator's Note

BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo discusses his selection of Compagnie du Hanneton's Tabac Rouge for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.

Program Notes

Tabac Rouge (PDF) 


Blurring Circus Frontiers (BAM blog)
"With a cast of world-class dancers and high-level acrobats, Tabac Rouge represents the erratic desires of a capricious tyrant through the mesmerizing and whimsical physicality of his people."

In Chaplin's Footsteps: How James Thierrée Became Vaudeville Royalty (The Independent)
The great-grandson of Charlie Chaplin had an auspicious theatrical beginning: playing a suitcase.

Flight and Bliss: The Work of James Thierrée (Brooklyn Rail)
"Certainly I don’t have anything against words," says Thierrée. "I just know that in my work, I’m kind of shooting so much visually and physically that words would just make you sick."

Watch & Listen

Tabac Rouge Trailer (BAM)
Snippets from Thierrée's steampunk dystopia, courtesy of BAM.

James Thierrée's Tabac Rouge: Part I, Part II, Part III (Sadler's Wells)
"It's a show about desire and power and systems and mechanisms of society and how people organize ...[There're] really a lot of layers in this cake."

Now your turn...

What did you think? Convinced now that words are overrated? Thoughts on Thierrée's movement or particular brand of tyrannical overlord? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #TabacRouge.


  1. One of the most inexplicably beautiful things I have ever witnessed. I'm not entirely sure what happened yet, but I'm sure I'll be pondering that for days to come.

  2. A little bit of theater, a bit of dance, a bit of circus. You didn't know what to expect might happen from minute to minute. I find it hard to believe some of those dancers are really doing what they're doing. They are part ballet, part hip-hop, part cartoon characters.

  3. definitely one of the best things i've seen all year, and at BAM. it just kept unfolding. more please!

  4. Magic, pure magic. I'm still in his world. His performance drags emotions so to the surface that one teeters between laughing and crying. I already hate that his images that are currently dominating my mind shall slowly fade in the weeks to come.

  5. The performers were all amazing and the choreography was wonderful. The intricate dark set was also intriguing. Unfortunately, it was still a head-scratcher since there wasn't really a coherent narrative to pull it all together.

  6. Wonderful! I always look forward to James Thierree coming to BAM. Never disappoints.

  7. Great performers and visually beautiful but, unfortunately, a complete nonsense. There was no story and no understandable dialog. Was that the point? Or was it the representation of a mind gone crazy? Or an allegory of our times? It felt like all packaging and no content. Great packaging but after an hour and a half of unwrapping you are left with no present and tired of the whole thing.
    I'm not disappointed that I saw it because the choreography was beautiful and some images of it will stay with me. But I wouldn't recommend it.

  8. Wonderful, exciting great to watch. Would definitely see it again.

  9. This is the third show I see by James Thierree.
    He is pure genius. Pure magic.
    The worlds he creates are riveting, between dreams and nightmares.
    His company is fantastic and the choreograpy intriguing and always exciting.
    However, in this show, I missed seeing more of him performing and less thinking and acting or sitting onstage. Even though the company is superb, HE is the genius. When he is performing everything falls into place, even if those moments are seconds.
    There were times that did not flow together and I wondered if the company had to change some things at the last minute therefore creating certain anticlimactic gaps. Since he has an exquisite taste in his music choices, the excerpts he chooses somewhat save those gaps...nevertheless, they were there and they took me out of his world. This has not happened before in any other show.
    His slapstick is always infused with pathos, just like Chaplin's was, which is remarkable that that particular gene has passed down to him. But in this particular show there was some slapstick without the pathos, and unfortunately it pulled me away from the world he creates. It is so powerful when everything a character does is infused with emotion or a history, as opposed to just a gag onstage.
    All in all, this is an amazing artist and I will always recommend him and go see his shows.
    But let's make no mistake here, HE is the reason I go see his show, because he performs his vision of the world he creates like no other person onstage.

  10. I liked it very much, although it is a bit chaotic and self indulgent. Thiérrée es obviously a talented artist, but he would benefit from an external look by another metteur en scène. My husband, who liked Thiérrée's former pieces, found this one unsinpiring.

    But all in all, I think he has a lot of ideas that work out quite well on stage

  11. Dreadful. Pompous, Arrogant. I was listening to the Curator's Note and was wondering whether J. Thierrees' invitation to perform at BAM was the result of this "great friendship" since, quite clearly it cannot possibly be based on the value of that show. As for James Thierree's being "an exquisite mover" who "uses his body" ... Really? When can we actually see this in this show? J. Thierree was seated on an armchair for about an hour and a half (which felt like an eternity). I saw "Raoul" at BAM Harvey a few years ago, It was full of imagination, James Thierrees was indeed performing beautifully, it was modest in its scenography, yet full of imagination and poetry.

  12. Absolutely gorgeous piece! The movement quality of all of the performers was inspirational and so very intricate! The contortionist was stunning-- her isolation were outrageous, she could move and isolate even one toe at a time! Though it was a bit difficult to find a story line, I really didn't mind much, as I was lost in the movement and the beauty of the piece. The interactions between characters was so lovely, and the ending was absolutely magical! I could watch this piece over and over and never tire of it! My first comment to my friends after it ended was, "It makes me want to go create better art." I just loved this show from start to finish!!! xo

  13. Although lacking dramatic climaxes - based, necessarily, in this genre of physical theater married to acrobatics in breathtaking last displays of prowess (as in the previous shows) -

    this is sensational theater which, through sheer visual beauty, the power of physical comedy to express this highest subtlety and richness of drama and utter circus mastery, creates true theatrical experience, a powerful story about power - never far from our lives - a wealth of lessons of grand staging, and is utterly something we Americans do not know anything about.