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Becoming Shades at The Vault Festival – Review

Becoming ShadesBecoming Shades is a stunning and enthralling retelling of a classic myth brimming with passion and intensity. An enchanting power play, the piece examines the tides of emotion that accompany high-stakes choices, even when it seems that the right to choose has been taken away. Performed by Chivaree circus and directed by Laurane Marchive, the production is a collaboration of dance, aerial acrobatics, music and mime, culminating in a brilliantly orchestrated immersive theatre experience. Oh and there’s fire, did I mention the fire?

Based on the Greek myth of Persephone, the audience are transported to an underworld setting in the dark and ominous performance space of Waterloo Vaults. Here, we are privy to the courtship of Persephone and Hades following her descent to his domain, loss of freedom and finally her decision to rule as his Queen.

Upon entering the space we are greeted by our hosts; the three faces of Cerberus, portrayed with elegant synchronicity by the female company, and a Charon-like figure who serves not only as a guide but also provides well needed comic relief to an otherwise highly charged production. His break-out tutorial, ‘How to train your hell hound’ is an unexpected contrast to the story flow and provides a number of welcome laugh-out-loud moments.

Visually, the dance and circus elements are exceptional. The choreography for the seduction of Persephone is elegant, gripping and passionate. Persephone and Hades work as one, delivering a performance that is filled with emotion and visually stunning. The chemistry between performers is undeniable; a flawless mixture of technical skill and poignant characterisation.

The ever-shifting balance of power between Hades and Persephone may, however, be slightly underplayed. There is a beautiful moment at the conclusion of the piece where, while spinning in a ring of fire, Persephone looks to the audience with an emblazoned smirk showing that she has taken her place as Queen. Hades demonstrates exceptional talent and has an undeniably strong presence within the space, however, there is definitely scope to see more from him, particularly during his solo performance. This is absolutely no reflection on the performer, but rather the result of limited stage time away from Persephone. Perhaps additional choreography exploring his dominance while interacting with the hell hounds could remedy this.

Accompanying the visual elements of performance is music by Sam West and Becks Johnstone. Performed live, the music alone is reason enough to see this production with spine-chilling vocals and a bass that reverberates throughout the concrete space creating an atmosphere that is all encompassing.

Overall, the production is raw, exciting and full of energy. Emotionally charged performances coupled with highly skilled stunts and acrobatics result in a production that is true to the essence of the underlying myth, while also engaging and poignant for a modern audience. A festival highlight for sure.

4 and a Half stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

CHIVAREE CIRCUS present Becoming Shades
Dark Immersive Circus Show
At VAULT Festival
The Vaults, Waterloo

A dark immersive underground circus experience retelling the myth of Persephone with aerial acrobatics, live music, fire, dance and mime. Becoming Shades will be one of the opening shows as part of VAULT Festival, at The Vaults, Waterloo from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 January.

Becoming Shades is a show that takes the audience on a journey through the dark heart of the Vaults in Waterloo. The long tunnel of the cavern is transformed into Hades.

Becoming Shades creates a world of immersive circus, where movement becomes a language and the audience is at the centre of it, becoming part of the show and living it as a true reality for the length of the performance.

Created by Edward Gosling and Laurane Marchive for Chivaree Circus; their work includes a combined 15 years of performance experience, a Guinness World record to their name and past productions for festivals including Glastonbury, Latitude, Primavera, Electric Picnic and many others as well as for club nights, parties, charities, events. Chivaree Circus has performed internationally across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Becoming Shades is Chivaree Circus’ first solo production with a brand-new score composed specifically for the show and played live, featuring high-level acrobatics, big aerial drops and falls and multi-performer choreographed fire elements.


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