Immercity, one of my favourite immersive theatre groups, recently kicked off their Three Rings of Cirque Tsuki show, and last Sunday I got to see the first instalment of what will be a series of 3 individual performances with storytelling themes. The initial ‘ring’ or show is entitled ‘Birthday’ and is described as:
Birthday comes from the woods of darkest Europe, inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. The Cirque Tsuki is celebrating the birthday of Madame Mist, the mischievous storyteller’s assistant. As the clock strikes midnight, she opens her present and the shadows come pouring out, bringing Madame Mist and the audience on a journey of discovery. Birthday is suitable for children of all ages and is the most hopeful of the three rings.
Here’s the review, as well as some black and white digital sketches of my impressions.
The afternoon begins with a carnival – there are games, fortune telling, a sweet shop, and guests are moved up and down the building to experience each of these opportunities. The group is then gathered to listen to the story of Little Red Riding Hood, told in an engaging and clever manner. It takes a while to get the momentum going, but once they delve into the storytelling aspect, the performance is vibrant, lively, and visually stunning.
The building and cast are dressed entirely in clean black and white. Everyone is sharp, mysterious, and this is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing Erin Morgenstern’s book “The Night Circus” visualized in real life. It’s beautiful, and it’s a nice indication of the amount of imagination and beauty there is to be had in a black and white world.
The story is wonderfully imagined. We are told the story of little Red Riding Hood, which comes to life with the winding up of a doll who then transforms unto a very lithe and gracious red riding hood. The story is then communicated using fabric, shadows, and an excellent use of a coat hanger and coat as Grandma. The actress playing Madame Mist is a simply wonderful storyteller, and has the attention of the audience in the palm of her hand for the duration of her story.
The shadow puppetry is nothing short of outstanding. It’s extremely difficult to see from the side nearest the sweet table, but is so worth a crick in the neck to catch a glimpse of the artistry involved. Paper forms appear behind a curtain to illustrate Red’s journey, and the story of the wolf. The forms are exquisitely cut out and are reminiscent of old woodcut prints and also the tale of the three brothers from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1- yes, they are that captivating and intricate.
The performance is wonderfully sweet and easily enjoyed by all age groups. The theatricality of the axe fight is delightful, as is the ultrasound of the wolf. The story is told in such a charming and clever manner, but the performance looses ground with the shakiness and almost irrelevance of the opening events – the birthday party itself.
The fortune teller was brilliant, and I would love to know how they use the smoke and mirrors to actually know what you are thinking, but the session in which a story is told to you in an upstairs room lacks bite and meaning. The games are fun, but designed more with children in mind (of which there were only two present compared to twenty or so adults.)
This leads to the first twenty minutes seeming shaky, doubtful even, but once the actual story roars into action, the performance is eye catching, clever, and really wonderfully imagined.
It’s a well-done show, and as the next two performances promise to be more grown up, there’s lots of promise ahead for the next two rings. There’s fun, surprises, some liquorice if you’re lucky, and a lovely and lively afternoon to be had at the Cirque Tsuki birthday.
Of note: my theatre group and I attend as many immersive performances as we can in London, and are big Immercity fans– we’ve seen Wyrd and Crashed, and bought tickets for this production as soon as the web link was fixed. Shortly after we purchased our tickets for Cirque Tsuki we received an email offering us 2 for 1 tickets for the show as a loyalty bounce-back for having seen previous shows. This was great, but we were left very disappointed that neither calls nor emails to the theatre company regarding whether or not we could obtain a partial refund were ever returned.
What should have been a lovely, generous deal left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths knowing we could have and should have seen the show for half price. Yes, we probably would still go see the next two shows, but we are certainly in no hurry to buy the tickets for them—just in case!