James Thierrée comes from an impressive artistic dynasty; most famously his grandfather was Charlie Chaplin, whilst great-grandfather was playwright Eugene O’Neill, creativity no doubt flows through his veins.
A child of the circus Thierrée brings his sixth production from his Compagnie du Hanneton The Toad Knew to the Lowry this week for 2 performances only.
Six kidnapped siblings are trapped in a cobwebbed and dusty space, a skeletal staircase rises from the floor, a long forgotten tap drips somewhere in the distance. A wandering singer roams the stage, powerful and beguiling her vocals are jumbled and bluesy as they accompany the crackling soundtrack.
Thiérrée is the master of this show and acts out some brilliantly comedic sight gags which have the audience roaring with laughter, visually this piece is beautiful. Whilst his fellow performers wriggle and writhe the slapstick moments are those that shine brightest and thrill the audience.
The full height of the Lowry’s lyric theatre is used to maximum effect as a collection of lights hover above our performers, influencing and affecting their behaviour. One performer weaves through the wires and cables that control the assent and descent of the lights with ease and real beauty, tangled amidst the power of the kaleidoscope.
Whilst the piece is visually beautiful it is at times a little frustrating, occasionally feeling that just as sections are gaining momentum they end rather than reaching their full potential and deliver the wow the audience is waiting for. Whilst a very entertaining piece the lack of punch means the production delivers more of a fizz rather than the bag that the talent on stage are clearly capable of. At 90 minutes straight through this is an interesting and charming piece with some moments of pure genius and impressive physical theatre, with just a few tweaks here and there it could be magnificent.
On at the Lowry this evening 7.30pm https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-toad-knew