Invited to write a wish on kite-shaped paper and hang it on a twinkling tree, the opening moments of Cirque Tsuki: Birthday hint at the sort of intimacy and interactivity that can make this sort of work distinctive.
Inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, Birthday is part of ImmerCity’s The Three Rings of Cirque Tsuki – three immersive pieces set amongst the monochrome margins of an imaginary circus. In this offering, the circus 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.
The journey itself follows a path well-trodden, with Red Riding Hood journeying into the forest to visit grandma only to be hoodwinked by the wolf. It’s a story we all know and love, but ImmerCity do little to reinvent this familiar fairy tale.
Combining simple storytelling, shadow play and a selection of magical sweets, there are fleeting moments of magic and atmosphere. The use of a walking stick as a ultrasound scanner, for example, is an isolated instance of witty resourcefulness.
ImmerCity designer Clancy Flynn does well with limited resources, making good use of fabrics, fairy lights and Chinese lanterns to transform what could be a pokey performance space into a fortune teller’s tent. There’s good work too from Emily Hodgeson whose Madam Mist and Mrs Hood lend proceedings a sturdy combination of poise and purpose.
The demise of the wolf is sit-on-lap scary for younger audiences, and these sequences hint at a much darker gamut to this company’s work. But while Birthday is fluffy fun, it lacks the magic to transform this simple show into the fairy tale fantasia it long to be.
Cirque Tsuki: Birthday is at C nova (Venue 145) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.