Dark Circus @ The Barbican Pit Review


Stereoptik‘s fourth production was created especially for the 2015 Avignon festival. Based on an original story by the illustrator Pef (Pierre Elie Ferrier), who created the famous character Prince de Motordu, Dark Circus takes us to a dreary town where the Dark Circus gives only one single performance: “Come to the show, stay for the woe.” Presented by a sinister ringmaster, all circus artists meet catastrophic ends: The trapeze artist falls to her death, the human cannonball is shot into space, the lion tamer is eaten, one of the prized circus horses escapes and its rider perishes in its pursuit… Yet then a juggler, who uses only one ball, releases all the colours of the rainbow and changes the dark circus into a world of joy and wonder.

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This fantastical story is put on stage by Romain Bermond and Jean-Baptiste Maillet, both musicians and visual artists. Whilst the spectators are free to lose themselves in the imagery and the stories that are projected onto the screen, they can also watch how the duo creates this illusion using ink, paper, sand and other materials to paint silhouettes on transparent backgrounds. Accompanied by a selection of instruments, their shows include shadow play, object and puppet theatre, silent films and cartoons. The electro-acoustic soundtrack underlines the dreary and uncanny atmosphere of the Dark Circus and drives the action up to the joyous ending.

The show begins with a few black lines on the screen that evolve into a circus tent. Quickly a whole town is created, and a little van drives through the streets announcing the Dark Circus – one night only. Bermond and Maillet tell the story with music and images that appear on the screen in lightning speed. When the horse escapes the scenery changes as it runs and frolics across the plains, enjoying its newfound freedom. Everyday items are used to create characters, scenery and situations as the Chinese knife thrower emerges from a mysterious lake, long leg first, before she performs her exciting act. The 55 minutes go by much too fast. 4/5

A delightful show full of wonders.

Review written by Carolin Kopplin

Dark Circus was shown at the Barbican Pit as part of this year’s London International Mime Festival from Tuesday 26th January until Saturday 30th January. For more information, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop