As children, the two creatives behind Dark Circus were to find in television the inspiration for a work they would later go on to create as adults.
To call this work of Romain Bermond and Jean-Baptiste Maillet children’s theatre is completely reductive. This is not so much a comment on the work itself, but on the genre it fits within. A study in classic noir, its dark edges are a clever disguise for an experience that is luminary and captivating for all ages, be it for the next generation of theatregoers or for adults, allowing a genuine chance to just be a kid again.
While we have come for the show, we ultimately stay for the woe as each of the cursed characters come to their respectively gruesome and funny ends. The only real survivors here are the animals in what feels like a nod to our destructive ways and sense of mortality.
Dark Circus makes beautiful use of puppetry, shadow play, live art, music and sound. The performance opens with a stunning sequence of line drawings and contemporary sound in classic noir style, followed in later scenes with an exploding colour palette not dissimilar to the famous rose in Pleasantville. Other joyous moments include the instruments themselves becoming characters in the circus ring. Such slipping between genres is rare, and for this integration to be executed so well, absolutely magnificent.
This is a performance for all ages, a work of puppetry woven by two impressive artists into sheer theatrical magic. This is a one hour work that you walk away from chucking and feeling giddy. Perhaps television does have a role to play after all, but then artists do find inspiration in all kinds of places.