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Photo credit @ Rah Petherbridge

Tarot, VAULT Festival – Review

To someone with no knowledge of Tarot reading, this production offers an exhilarating approach to the mysterious game. A quite intimate practice is transferred from a private setting to a public stage using a blend of theatre genres. Tarot cards are embodied in gestures expressed by acrobat artists, in a burlesque drag artist who guides the show, and in a live band that adds an uncanny and mystical atmosphere to the whole extravaganza. Both genre and gender are boundless in this show. In this one place you encounter circus, comedy, a concert and onstage Tarot reading. The visual elements…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A sensual, distressing, uncanny and eclectic Tarot reading.

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To someone with no knowledge of Tarot reading, this production offers an exhilarating approach to the mysterious game. A quite intimate practice is transferred from a private setting to a public stage using a blend of theatre genres. Tarot cards are embodied in gestures expressed by acrobat artists, in a burlesque drag artist who guides the show, and in a live band that adds an uncanny and mystical atmosphere to the whole extravaganza.

Both genre and gender are boundless in this show. In this one place you encounter circus, comedy, a concert and onstage Tarot reading. The visual elements of the staging create an eclectic atmosphere. There seems to be an endless fusion of diverse influences: costumes made of velvet, leather and lace; punk and urban aesthetics; esotericism; sadomasochist references; soul-jazz; the sound of London trains passing over The Vaults; electronic and acoustic music instruments, and so on.  

Every time a new card is brought to the narrative it is shown at its original scale along with a larger version that a musician has pasted on a prop. However, neither of these two presentations were adequately visible to me, either because they were too small to see properly, or because of the restricted sightline from the side of the theatre. I therefore felt I missed the visual imagery of the Tarot and thus its connection with the rest of the dramatic elements.  

The show is dominated by acrobats and the cast’s intense physical performance is impressive. They are exceptionally flexible, strong, and challenging, always moving in a seductive way. The poses seem unnatural, as they push the biological limits of the body. 

With a full house, the theatre was packed with people, props and musical instruments. The space was not big enough for the amount of things that was happening onstage. The confined staging made you feel continuously on edge, so near to the somersaults, hand stands and all the abrupt acrobatic movements. Every maneuver was really close to colliding with the theatre equipment, or bashing against an audience member or other performer. However, even with a minor accident when the keyboard-player’s equipment fell down, it just felt like everything was intentionally part of the mysterious chaos.

But who’s to judge if that’s really the case? Human error is definitely part of the magic and the tension of a live performance. However, that musician was talented enough to make this setback part of the whole peculiar environment. Additionally, the acrobats always remained in character, and the proximity of the audience meant we were close enough to catch this. They were strong, professional and were physically giving their all to the audience. No-one could see if a movement was painful, or if an acrobat was struggling. The whole cast maintained the atmosphere consistently.

Ultimately, I was amazed that after the entire hour everyone ended up unscathed. I rather think that everything in this show is actually meticulously controlled. Happily, any stress was balanced out by the hilarious Ruby Wednesday, the host. It felt like this was an ambitious project and The Feathers achieved it.

Directed and Produced by: Joanna Vymeris on behalf of The Feathers of Daedalus Circus
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/tarot/
Booking Until: 1 February 2020

About Susana Botero Santos

Susana Botero Santos
Susana is a Colombian designer interested in performing arts and textiles practices. She likes thinking of fictional characters: on their stories, gestures and atmosphere. She is interested in elements that are rejected by etiquette norms. For example she sees glamour in the crude, the abject, the uncomfortable, the irregular, the taboo, the ugly and the absurd. She enjoys writing and drawing about it. Susana has worked in films and theatre as production designer, costume and props designer.