Twist, turns, Bells and Spells: a fantastical show for curious minds
PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:16 03 May 2019
A spellbinding show, starring the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, rolls into town for one night only.
As a teenager, attending school and living at a fixed address was Aurelia Thiérrée's idea of pure rebellion: “I thought it was terrifyingly adventurous!” the French-born performer explains. Growing up with travelling circus performer parents, it's easy to see why an 'ordinary' life appealed.
An instinct for performance binds the family together: Aurelia's mother, Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin, is the daughter of actor Oona O'Neill and Charlie Chaplin. Aurelia inherited her love of cabaret and her vivid imagination from her parents, who founded Le Cirque Imaginaire in the seventies. She and her younger brother James started out playing walking suitcases – their father cut holes in the suitcases, and they climbed inside with legs poking out.
This month the mother-daughter pair will bring their latest collaboration, Bells and Spells, to Norwich Theatre Royal for one night only, as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It is directed by Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin, with Aurelia Thiérrée and dancer Jaime Martinez dazzling as the stars.
Bells and Spells combines elements of performance, tricks and dance with wildly imaginative props to tell the story of an incurable kleptomaniac at the mercy of her stolen objects. It's a mix that older children love, Aurelia explains: “When they feel that it's not a show that's designed for them, they enjoy it even more.” In one optical illusion, Aurelia disappears in a revolving door and post-show, children in the audience like to boast to her that they've figured the tricks out, and most of the time, she admits, they get it right.
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Because the show relies on wordless dialogue, it “works in the imagination of the person watching,” Aurelia says, adding that the show is most rewarding to those who “decide to let go!”
Aside from performing with her parents as a child, this is Aurelia's third collaboration with her mother. As well as directing Bells and Spells, Victoria Thiérrée Chaplin - who famously shuns interviews, hoping to let her work speak for itself – designed and created the show's fantastical props.
Aurelia admits having initially doubted the brilliantly eccentric props; one, a chain, was designed to go 'through' the stomach – “I thought, 'that's never going to work!'” she laughs. But she's learned that “if there's a willingness to enter into [Victoria's] world, it all works.” It's the key to fruitful collaboration: “You have to be receptive.”
Aurelia compares their working relationship to dreaming: “When you have a dream and something absurd happens, you don't question it,” she explains. It's a sensation she brings to life in the show, of witnessing visions that are “ridiculous, or beautiful, but completely weird.”
Each show the nomadic mother-daughter duo collaborates on usually tours for around seven years, or until they've 'cracked' it: “We say that the minute we know exactly how the show works, we have to move on to the next.”
Bells and Spells is at Norwich Theatre Royal on Friday 17 May. Recommended age 10+. Ticket prices range from £10-£26. For more information visit www.nnfestival.org.uk