By Jen Bolsover
Based on a selection of Japanese ghost stores and decked out in Tim Burtonish white facepaint and monochrome, Cirque Tsuki’s Parade promises something spooky and ambitious. It certainly has ambition, but unfortunately the production is let down by a lack of clarity in storytelling and consistency in style.
Audience members are thrust instantly into a story that has already begun. Parade is the sequel to ImmerCity’s other two shows, Birthday and Feast, so it is understandable that some nuance is lost if you have not seen the other parts. However, there is no attempt to recap for the benefit of newcomers, and even within Parade itself, the action begins during a game that has been played almost to its conclusion.
The purpose of this game is to summon the ghost of a character from the previous plays. It is by no means clear when this has been achieved, since it occurs as part of a story within a story and there is nothing in the other characters’ reactions to indicate that something truly surprising has occurred.
The performances are all somewhat underpowered, making it difficult to follow the characters’ emotional journeys or differentiate between the members of Cirque Tsuki and the characters they play within the mini-stories. Murder is met with mild annoyance and manifestations of the supernatural with a sort of laconic indifference. With the actors so detached from the things at stake for their characters, very little tension is built up and the play merely meanders from one ghost story to the next, never fully committing to the overarching tale it is trying to tell.
There is clearly a great deal of design talent within ImmerCity. The set, sound and lighting are all clever and well realised, though it is a pity that the space is not better used. After an impressive introduction to the world of the play, the immersive element is quickly forgotten and the show moves into fourth wall territory. It is also unfortunate that the tone and register of the writing undermines the timeless circus atmosphere that the company has tried to build. Committing to something more stylised would have sounded less jarringly modern – or committing firmly to a juxtaposition between the beautiful, slightly Tim Burtonish aesthetic and the inelegance of contemporary everyday speech might have turned the problem into a definite artistic choice.
It is a pity that ImmerCity’s style is not backed up by greater substance on this occasion. There’s a powerful sense that the company is capable of much, much more.
Cirque Tsuki: Parade runs at C Nova until 25 August at 16.45. Running time is 1 hour.