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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In Context: La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew)

James Thierée and Compagnie du Hanneton return to BAM Oct 12—14 with La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew), a physical theater work in which two restless siblings are trapped in a dank subterranean world under the watchful gaze of an amphibian captor.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Program Notes

La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew) (PDF)


Featured Collection: James Thierrée (Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive)
Browse richly detailed entries on all of James Thierrée’s Next Wave Festival productions, plus a selection of photos, artifacts, and ephemera from the BAM Hamm Archives.

James Thierée with Ivan Talijancic (The Brooklyn Rail)
An in-depth interview about La grenouille and Thierrée's longstanding relationship with BAM.

James Thierrée: 'Baryshnikov told me to get used to pain. It's part of a dancer's life' (The Guardian)
The physical theater artist discusses the grueling nature of his work and sources of inspiration.

Interview with James Thierrée - La grenouille avait raison (Le Circassien)
Thierrée on his process for creating La grenouille and the elements contained therein.

Watch & Listen

The Toad Knew by James Thierrée | Crying Out Loud (YouTube)
Audiences at the Edinburgh International Festival share their responses to La grenouille avait raison.

James Thierrée's Tabac Rouge - Interview Part 3 (YouTube)
The artist speaks about growing up in a family of nouveau cirque performers.

Beyond Physical Theater (SoundCloud)
BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo, BAM Hamm Archives director Sharon Lehner, and scholar Duncan Wall attempt to define physical theater and how it relates to circus.

Now your turn...

What did you think? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.


  1. I took my 18-year-old son to see The Toad Knew last night. In spite of the 42-year difference in our ages, we both reacted to it in an identical way. We thought it was trite, simplistic, and self-conscious. In addition, it seemed to call upon the great French mime tradition as well as masters of comic body language, such as Charlie Chaplin, yet it failed in paying homage to them. Rather, it showed the smallness of the creators' talents. I was shocked at the end when audience members stood to clap and cheer in appreciation. I had no idea what these players were attempting to communicate. The relationships among the characters were momentary, the drivers of their moods and interactions inscrutable and meaningless, as if we had happened upon relationships in the street, and caught a snippet of them in passing, but never got to know the characters or their issues with one another. Perhaps we were meant to read into all this a deep commentary on contemporary society - I found myself grasping for meaning - but ultimately, one could read any aspect of the human condition into each vignette. Indeed, like a circus show, it was a patchwork of one vignette after another made up of gimmicks, some of which were, yes, beautiful to watch for a moment, such as the revolving spiral staircase, but ultimately it was all "sound and fury, signifying nothing." My son asked as we left our seats at the end, "How much did you pay for those tickets?" I was too mortified to tell him.

    1. Perfectly articulated
      We felt the same

  2. I think The Toad Knew is a master work and James Thierree a genius. My friend and I had a completely different experience than the writer above. To us, the piece is magical, full of humanity, fun, and generosity of spirit. It is very rare to see a performer with such a refined ability in making a simple gesture so fascinating. James Thierree is his own man and need not pay homage to anyone. Instead he performs with joy, authenticity and exquisite skill. He invites us into a world of wonder, mystery and utter beauty. It is a haunting, ridiculous, passionate, frustrating world. To watch a performer make his work so alive is to feel alive with him. His bow at the end, communicates an artist who loves his audience, is generous and present until the very last moment on stage. This is the true avant guard. I will be going a second time.

  3. I was expecting a performance more in the vein of Tabac Rouge- or at least of similar calibar.

  4. This was the best amphibian-themed surrealist acrobatic clowning musical performance I have seen at BAM in recent memory. It featured ethereal singing, multilingual shouting, Chaplin-esqe mime, intricately moving mechanical stage effects, and breathtaking stunts, all in the name of art. I did, however, find it lacking in meaning, coherence or any sort of logical progression from beginning to end. It also did not feature nearly enough Frog. I frequently found myself asking not just “What DID the Frog know?” but “Where the hell IS the Frog?” It could have been called Waiting for Kermit. Do go and see it if you have just taken an overdose of something.

  5. Not an easy show ... parts of it repetitive and electrical cord near pool very scary as actors are humans and this could be a real problem if things went haywire (literally). But there is something magical about this performance. Red velvet curtain, exquisite musical interludes and unconscious stream when it works are all captivating and enchanting. At the end of day, this one is a winner.

  6. what a waste of your time... so sorry for you - My wife and I had a fantastique experience and I couldn't disagree more with your ridiculous comments.
    Mortified? $80??
    I suggest you don't take your son to the Metropolitan Opera
    Ta ta for now

  7. I was quite disappointed in this performance. Having seen every Thierree theatrical presentation and been totally enthralled, I believe he "air mailed" this one in. It was a 30 minute show extended to 1.5 hrs, like taking a fine Bordeaux and adding 1.5L of water. Repeating the same slap stick bits over and over made me weary and almost desperate for "it" to end. Simulated peeing in the pond??? Beyond the light creature, the spiral staircase, and the huge "drop cloth frog", there was little creativity and imagination presented. Where were the aerial and acrobatic segments, the nuanced metaphors, the character relationships and emotional connections?
    Had this been my first Thierree experience, it would have been my last.


  9. Like a painting of Salvador Dali. Don't try to understand it

  10. I loved it! The body movement gave me goosebumps! It filled my soul and my imagination traveled ...
    Merci à vous tous! J. Thierrée! Ton grand père serait fière de toi!

  11. I loved the music and the movement/dance, liked the aura and the tech, however there was no story. It was good as a trance piece, but I could not stand at the ovation without a story.


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