The Carnival of Lost Souls

The Carnival of Lost Souls
Presented by Platonic Music. The Space: Dunstan Playhouse (SA). Friday 10 November To Saturday 11 November, 2017.

The Carnival of Lost Souls is a macabre yet rather engaging piece of ‘circus theatre’ in the spirit, if not scale of Cirque du Soliel. The setting for the rather loose narrative that involves desire, betrayal and revenge, is an old gothic 19th Century Music Hall.

Whilst the grande guigol aspect is distinctively 19th Century, the rest of the production is very ‘modern’. This includes the musical score that is part modern film soundtracks, such as Hans Zimmer’s evocative music for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, and other composers such as Michael Nyman. These often underscore and wonderfully complement the thrilling circus acts, of which there are many.

Highlights include some incredible juggling – such as a single male performer tossing a giant silver open cube, which was fantastic. There is also the wonder of a malevolent magician with his fire, magic cards, and flying table; and the excitement of watching a young female performer balancing on small sheet of perplex glass on top of even smaller hollow tubes, and a table, with layers of wine glasses with orange liquid on trays in between. The gasps of amazement from the audience and the applause that followed when I saw the show is indicative of the wonder and sheer enjoyment to be had from this production.

There is a kind of plot line involving desire and unrequited love. The main characters are a young foolish clown and a beautiful fortune-teller, with whom the clown is infatuated. Their story is primarily told through songs; original songs composed by Melbourne based music artist Platonic, who performs ‘live’, accompanying the two singers. The songs are good and beautifully performed.

The only criticism I have of this ninety-minute piece of self-devised ‘circus theatre’ is that despite the thrilling acts, the show can be a bit monotonous and repetitive, and far too serious. There is very little spontaneous fun and virtually everything is done with the same heavy and sustained tone, pace, and atmosphere.

Because the narrative is relatively obscure and the stylization so extreme there is lot of posturing, with dark and serious looks that are essentially meaningless and lacking depth because you don’t really know why they are happening in the first place. However, if you just accept that essentially everyone in this ‘carnival of lost souls’ hates everyone else in one way of another, except the clown and the fortune-teller, it doesn’t really matter.

This show comes from Melbourne, written and directed by Graham Coupland, produced by Platonic Music and the brilliant Terence O’Connell from Spieglworld’s – Empire, and featuring a terrific cast of eight circus / physical theatre artists.

When the show was first produced in Melbourne it was in the Melbourne Spiegel-tent. Whilst the show works well in the intimate Space Theatre in the Dunstan Playhouse I couldn’t help but think that it would have been even better if seen in Adelaide’s Spiegel-tent.

However, despite these reservations this is a show well worth seeing, primarily due to the thrilling and exciting performances by the talented and skilled cast.

Tony Knight

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