Bells and Spells at the Coronet Theatre
The latest collaboration between mother and daughter artists Victoria Thierrée Chaplin and Aurélia Thierrée is an ingenious performance piece about the mishaps of a fevered kleptomaniac.
The deceptively simple set-up consists of a back wall and chairs in a row, upon which the ensemble change places at the sound of pings in what appears to be a waiting room. Thierrée’s silver lipstick and slip-on shoes are magically replaced, revealing a gorgeous flowing sequinned gown, making the audience do a double take. Aurélia meets a man in uniform (Jaime Martinez) and together they begin dancing unexpectedly. Going back to his place, she begins to be drawn to an array of objects, including a face mask and glittering articles in his cabinet. The show gives way to humour when, without realising, Martinez sits on Aurélia as she hides in his armchair. A male figure enters with a miniature chair mask on his face – adding to the surrealism of Chaplin’s show – and places a set of revolving doors which Aurélia conceals herself in.
The short pieces are woven together by the bewitching tropes, wires and wheels that make objects appear and disappear with ease – credit is due to the expert planning and precision that went into this work. There are many sections of the show that could be described as highlights, but some particular moments that should be mentioned include an oil painting coming alive and a moment when Aurélia’s head is switched with that of a pug whose own body is matched with Martinez’s face. Another scene sees Aurélia’s hand as a lively feline, her movements animalistic and superbly realistic.
The domestic and mundane act of washing up is given a surreal boost when the kleptomaniac climbs the line, playing with the notions of gravity and visual trickery. Later, a tapestry cleverly turns real, with blood spooling from a figure’s arm (represented here by scarlet material), while a clothes hanger becomes a bird’s beak and coat stands make an almost mythical creature which Aurélia rides into the wings. Both she and Martinez shine in their roles, the actor effortlessly tap dancing, the clickety-clack of his shoes resounding with crystal clarity thanks to Dom Bouffard’s sound engineering. An eclectic musical score that includes the likes of Cuban musician Sergio Vitier, German experimental rock band Can, and Romanian folk music makes Bells and Spells aurally enchanting too.
The touching creativity with the lights, combined with the delicate art of physical theatre and puppetry, makes it unsurprising to discover that Victoria is the daughter of world-renowned actor Charlie Chaplin, who seems to have had a direct influence on both mother and daughter, though the show is original and wonderful in its own right.
Photos: Richard Haughton
Bells and Spells is at the Coronet Theatre from 2nd December until 14th December 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.