This might be the most beautiful thing you will ever see on the Abbey stage.

Some philanthropist should block-book the Abbey for the week and give the tickets to teenagers and people who’ve never been to the theatre.

And then they should persuade James Thiérrée to stay on for a few nights, and straight after the election they should send every politician in the country to see it.

Raoul is the theatrical equivalent of Kilkenny en route to a hurling All-Ireland. It is a thing of baffling skill and awesome athleticism. And like hurling for the uninitiated, it is bewildering, but beautiful.

It is created by James Thiérrée, a man of unrivalled theatrical aristocracy: his great grandfather was Eugene O’Neill and grandfather was Charlie Chaplin. His sister, Aurelia Thiérrée, brought another piece of theatrical magic, Aurelia’s Oratorio, to the Abbey five years ago. The force is strong in them.

Raoul is (possibly) the story of a man’s encounters with his subconscious, or his anxieties. There are (sort of) two Raouls, though only one performer. There are stunning images of shipwreck that may reference The Tempest. Or maybe it’s not a ship, in which case it may be referencing Mad Max.

In the course of it, Thiérée falls from a 14-foot height in slow motion, wrestles with his reflection, is buffeted by imaginary winds or waves, and dances with giant puppet-creatures (including a “depressive jellyfish”).

He is a magnificent clown; permanently defeated, slightly melancholic, bewildered, earnest, frantic, vulnerable. Though he is the sole performer, he is never alone on stage. The set is alive: the walls talk to him; even the teapot produces an echo.

It would be unjust to Thiérée to reduce the climax to bald prose. It is, literally, a coup de théâtre. It brought tears to my eyes. (But don’t tell anyone.)

Published in the Irish Independent today.