Review: ★★★★ Becoming Shades, The Vaults Festival

If you love beautiful live music, stories of the underworld and incredible circus skills, then Becoming Shades at the Vaults is the show for you. The company Chivaree Circus is headlining Vaults Festival with this exceptional piece of circus theatre, lead by Laurane Marchive and it really manages to bring the audience in to a new world where they can intimately be amazed by the talent of the all female cast.

It was very difficult to follow the story line if you didn’t already know the Greek myth of Persephone. If plot is essential for you, as it is for many, reading up on Persephone beforehand will add a lot to your experience and you’ll realise how beautiful their performance skills are used as a metaphor for the story. As there were no dialogue, ideally they would have used their voice over to actually tell some of the story, instead of using it for inexplicable words, but according to the company they like to leave their audience with unanswered questions.

The performers were incredible, their circus skills left the audience in awe. The way they spun from the ceiling with fire everywhere in such a small space, made it the most intimate circus ever. That being said, they could have easily cut some of the dancing out, as it didn’t add much to the story and was not impressive compared to what was to come. On top of that there were two story lines that were very poorly interlinked, one being serious and one being funny – they’d already set a serious atmosphere, so the funny bits were almost misplaced.

The music by Sam West and Becks Johnstone is reason enough to go, they were performing live  and it was truly beautiful. It was a big part of setting the eerie atmosphere and possibly added the magic to the incredible stunts. Rebecca Rennison’s portrayal of Persephone, was particularly mind-blowing. Her dance and aerial background definitely comes in handy in a show where she swings from a circle of fire.

The show is supposed to be immersive and they encourage the audience to go exploring, but there are actors acting as ushers stopping you from doing that. Which is a shame, because there were some really beautiful scenery that were never noticed by most of the audience. And the ‘ushers’ told the audience where to go and where to squad – for by far most of the performance, remember to stay in the back if you have bad knees. As they didn’t take full advantage of their own scenery and immersiveness, they could have easily just had a theatre in-the-round stage of some sort.

There are some things where it was evident what they were trying to do, but it could have been done more successfully from a theatre perspective. From a circus, music and performance perspective though, it was an incredible experience, the kind you rarely get when you go through a dark tunnel to get to your destination. Luckily it’s on for the entirety of the Vaults Festival, so there is plenty of time to catch Becoming Shades.

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