Clowning around with Chaplin and friends...

PUBLISHED: 16:08 12 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:23 16 August 2010

EXCITED children awaited the septuagenarian clown Jean-Baptiste Thieree and his partner in childish magic, Charlie Chaplin s daughter Victoria.

EXCITED children awaited the septuagenarian clown Jean-Baptiste Thieree and his partner in childish magic, Charlie Chaplin's daughter Victoria.

Some of these youngsters were born in the interval between the couple's last visit to these shores and some of the parents were children themselves when they enjoyed this rag-tag show in its first incarnation, so long have been the periods of gestation and performance.

Thieree introduces Le Cirque Invisible with a small table covered in conjuring tricks, rather like a hired performer at an Edwardian children's party.

Then Victoria appears in a shimmering costume shaped like the nose-cone of a rocket and proceeds to roll around and contort herself inside it to produce weird shapes and images.

Like Ennio Marchetto, the quick change maestro, Victoria has a fascination with costumes and how they can be used to make visual statements but she takes it one stage further and designs them so that they can change into animals or birds with a few deft movements.

She and Thieree appear with several Japanese parasols, which quickly morph into birds of paradise performing a mating display.

Unencumbered and wearing a black suit, with hair flying, she looks strangely like Michael Jackson, but there is no time to linger on this image, as Thieree appears in an operatic costume and performs the 'Pearl Fishers' duet with help from the P.A. and his knees, which contain animated faces. His stage persona is benign and somewhat confused, rather like a snapshot of what Robin Williams will look like in 10 years time.

Victoria floats on in an elaborate Marie Antoinette-style costume which she cleverly rearranges into a lively horse and follows that with a coffee table that becomes a rickshaw, complete with puffing Chinese dragon as the coolie.

Then Thieree completes his magician's role by producing a profusion of animals and birds. White rabbits are given reading material to keep them amused, as are the doves, whilst the ducks are encouraged to join in with some home-made music by quacking in tune.

Not only ducks are co-opted to perform, but a sparrow too, as Edith Piaf's cardboard cutout is encouraged to recreate her iconic moments with the relevant soundtrack. From this cacophony, peace is restored and Victoria swans on in a silver costume covered in bells and glasses which she tinkles and strikes melodiously, as though performing at Versailles for the 'Roi Soleil'.

A gallic homage to 'Le Bicyclette' is enacted with wheels, handlebars and bells draped over their bodies, jingling and glittering harmoniously, but it is the stunning simplicity of Victoria's highwire act which defines and elevates this little show into the realms of true art.

A rather extended finale [, reprising many of their little tricks and inventions, makes one wonder at the sheer imagination and prolific creativeness of this odd couple, and at the same time invites you to bid farewell to a unique enterprise.

l Le Cirque Invisible is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 until August 23.

Tickets are £15 to £28 and available from the box office on 0871 663 2500.

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