After practising and performing in disused car showrooms for years on end, the Invisible Circus has joined the Bristol Old Vic to present their unique circus theatre show Under The Dark Moon. The theme revolved around human fears and dreams, crushed hopes, and the strong battle with our inner selves to beat those overwhelming personal demons.
The ensemble has ultimately created a performance that illustrates the unseen, grim side of fairy tales, and plays with the idea of a circus freak show by ridiculing it and twisting it into a new genre of fairy tales – dark fairy tales, reminiscent of noir.
The performance was led by a sinister narrator (Doug Francis), who skilfully unwound the individual tales into a whole, never missing the opportunity to use his dark humour and make the audience laugh, and to bring out an alternating emotional response.
From the opening multiple-layered shadow dance aimed at evoking three-dimensionality, to the individual stories, masterfully depicted by sound, simple mise-en-scène, and to the highly-trained acrobatics – Under The Dark Moon was a multimedia performance, not shy of standing next to any professional production.
Hearing about the characters’ fairy tale histories – all written by the individual performers – one is reminded of all life’s potential maladies, and yet just before all hope is lost, one gazes, mouth-open at the tough struggle to overcome them, skilfully displayed by the trained acrobats, showing that not everything has to be lost.
It speaks about human transformation even in the eyes of the ever-prescient awaiting death.
There’s the story about the girl who always wanted more than what she had and got abandoned, and the happy girl who couldn’t face the external world, got isolated and forgotten by everyone. There’s the story about a couple who, having lost their baby, face personal torment and madness – the woman ending up convinced the birds were trying to communicate with her, and the man fashioning a cloth mask in an attempt to hide from the whole world, including himself.
There’s the story of a girl who got a heavy box as an inheritance from her grandma and lived her life glued to the box, unable to open up to anything new. And finally, there’s the story of Mr. Knotford, who lives his peculiar life and completes tasks, struggling to beat the voices and knots in his head that are his ceaseless companions.
Defeating these shadows and, as Director Sarah Fielding beautifully puts it, ‘turning the struggles, or restrictions, into things of beauty, can be a cathartic experience’.
After achieving a circus revolution in Bristol, the Invisible Circus ensemble went straight into winning the Theatre.
Photos: Joe Clarke