Writer: Katie McCann
Director: Jeda De Bri
Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty
Set in the gothic-horror backdrop of Victorian London, this energetic and fun-filled performance centres on a covert travelling show and a young woman’s broken dreams. Poppy Parker, ‘an ordinary girl’ who is bored with her life and seeking adventure, is intrigued when a mysterious circus comes to town and sets up its tents in some disused fields that have been tainted by evil superstitions and tragedy. Through a series of clandestine events, the hapless Poppy is cajoled into getting involved in the secrets behind the circus characters’ sinister past. Finally and to her own detriment, Poppy uncovers the dark and horrific truth that fuels the show’s longevity and elusiveness- bizarrely this flit up circus often mysteriously disappears overnight.
Written by the clever Katie McCann, who is also one of the characters,’ the script is lyrically wry and laced with humour, repartee and acidic sharp wit. Using the innovative but simple set design by Sinead Purcell and Aoife Fealy, the narrative of the chronology of events is enacted with great attention to detail and use of gesture. Sharp direction from Jeda de Bri is evident in the performers’ extraordinary focus and concentration. The four actors who make up the cast are an excellent example of perfect collaborative ensemble acting. This is a unified group performance effortlessly cohesive and polished. Commendable also are the skills, energy and sheer talent of these actors.
Through virtuosic balletic moves and razor-sharp timing, the performers showcase their versatility by employing a range of styles that veer from slapstick and knockabout to vaudeville, mime and puppetry, interspersed with elements of the freak-show and horror film genre. The actors play the multi- roles with finesse and dexterity, effortlessly segueing from one character into another while incorporating a few key props that signified specific meanings or morphed into different guises. Costumes by Nicola Burke were shabbily reminiscent of the back-alley grime of Dickens’ fog-engulfed London.
Especially appealing to younger audience members, this work is more than a scary-funny show monopolising the supernatural motif of the approaching Halloween holiday, it points up a number of interesting themes and questions, for example, what kind of sacrifice is required to make an individual’s dreams come true?
One little quibble, while it is captivating throughout, the play could benefit from an editing process. Some of the little vignettes could do with being tightened up. This would, in turn, clarify the contrast between the changes of characters’ while also sharpening and highlighting the funnier moments. Nevertheless, Cirque des Rêves is well worth seeing, recommended for the young or the not so young, a highly entertaining, and funny show.
Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: Contributed