Part concert, part ballet and part visual installation: directed by Daisy Evans, Sounds and Sorcery: Celebrating Disney’s Fantasia is an homage to its source material as opposed to an attempted recreation. It is more of an immersive concert than anything else. Each audience member is provided with their own headset and is encouraged to explore the six themed rooms at their own pace, with the exception of the first and final pieces.
Using The Vaults to its full potential, each room is inspired by a different animated sequence of the Disney film and the accompanying music, recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under Stephen Higgins, plays automatically as you traverse the rooms. The audio quality isn’t quite up to scratch, falling into grainy and stilted playback at times.
The iconic “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment is redressed in a dim, damp cavern: brought to life by dancers and completely devoid of the mouse we all know so well. The Sounds and Sorcery reimagining has a large focus on the darkness present in that sequence with a strong menacing feel throughout, which may be a tad intense for young children (a woman in front of me had to reassure her daughter that the dancers “were actors; they’re not real” to calm her unease). In fact, much of the show gives off a similar atmospheric menace, but is offset with moments of lightness and humour. “Dance of the Hours” features four dancers dressed as an ostrich, hippo, elephant and crocodile in a quite literal battle for the spotlight. The personification of each animal in their clawing towards attention brings a lovely human touch while being both stunning and light-hearted.
Apart from the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Dance of the Hours”, there is a marked absence of actual performers, which feels almost like a missed opportunity given the effectiveness of the scenes with people in them. When you remove the performers, the show leans much more towards the visual installation part of it and takes a step away from the theatre show part.
That being said, the production in itself is still mesmerising. Kitty Callister’s set design is gorgeous and incredibly detailed; exactly what you want in this sort of all-consuming atmosphere. Each room has its own distinct feel and stepping into one immerses you immediately in the world of that room. Jake Wiltshire’s lighting design works in perfect harmony with Callister’s set; providing both pockets of darkness when needed, and beautiful performances of light.
Sounds and Sorcery is an ambitious show with consistent ambience, but falls short of its aims to be an “immersive sound and visual extravaganza”.
Sounds and Sorcery: Celebrating Disney’s Fantasia is playing at The Vaults until 30 September 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Laurence Howe