Reviewed – 26th January 2018
“Less self indulgence is needed here and more honesty”
Part installation, part dance, part circus, part music gig, part aerial acrobatics, part opera, part rave, part mime, part physical theatre; “Becoming Shades” at the Vault Festival is in danger of throwing too many ingredients into the pot. Yes, it is spectacular and enthralling, but a jumble of confusion at the same time.
It is a retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades, but it is better to forget that from the start and just let yourself be swept along with the unspecified emotion of the piece. Performed by Chivaree Circus and directed by Laurane Marchive, this all female circus troupe display exceptional skills on the ground and in the air with silks, hoops, chords. And fire. Accompanied by the hypnotic trip hop sounds of musician and composer Sam West and the ethereal voice of Becks Johnstone, the atmosphere becomes otherworldly at times.
On entering the space we are herded around the vault before being greeted by the ferryman of Hades (Molly Beth Morosa), allowing the audience to participate and become a collective lost soul carried across the river of Styx. But I’d recommend, at this point, finding a good spot and stay fixed to watch the spectacle from a good vantage point. There seems little benefit in being up close to the action: the narrative is near impossible to follow – it is pure visual spectacle.
Rebecca Rennison’s Persephone moves like fluid and commands the evening, culminating in a finale spinning in a ring of fire. Yet the rest of the seven cast are by no means supporting players. Elegantly choreographed they move as one filling each dimension of the space.
But it all lacks emotional punch and any true direction. The programme notes state that “we didn’t want to give the audience members clear answers: we want to let them decide for themselves”, which is theatre talk for lack of focus. Less self indulgence is needed here and more honesty – just be happy that this is a visually stunning show and a pleasure to watch gripping and highly skilled acrobatics.
The Vault Festival is in its sixth year now and is growing in its boldness and diversity to become London’s largest and most eclectic arts festival. It is worth going along for the carnival atmosphere alone without even catching one of the hundreds of shows on offer. “Becoming Shades” certainly fits in with the ethos of the Festival.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Maximilian Webster
Vaults Theatre until 18th March