Where: Inner London
1 June 2009 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The title of this piece, a mutilation of the word ‘circus’, is representative of the bizarre and distorted world you enter into at the Arcola’s new industrial space, which officially opens in July as Studio K. For now it is home to Seascale Atomic Village, which, funnily enough, isn’t exactly your typical seaside resort. Taking us back to 1957 writer and director John Harrigan explores the effects of the Calder Hall nuclear power station and Windscale reactors. In the surrounding areas various farm produce had to be destroyed as a result of these places; as for the people, well, take a wander round and you’ll see for yourself. The stark and industrial setting for this piece of promenade theatre is instantly eerie and unnerving. There are posters of atomic bombs and mushroom clouds, a ghost-like woman wandering around with an accompanying rattle of radioactivity and a classroom dedicated to the study of all things nuclear; all reminds us why we find ourselves in this warped environment. The lighting is dim, the space echoes and bizarre characters creep up on you. These characters are all part of a circus group and yet rather than perform to hundreds of excited tourists they inhabit this space which time seems to have forgotten. Amongst them is a fortune-teller lurking in the corner, a ringmaster who no longer seems to know who is he is, a girl in a stripy leotard causing mischief and an equestrienne called Athalia searching for her clown boyfriend. Harrigan completely smashes down the fourth wall as the audience, walking around the space, become entangled in the piece. The performers speak softly to one another; drawing you in closer as you strive to hear them. They may ignore your presence or they may engage you in their bizarre conversation. The experience is simultaneously funny and disconcerting. Whilst involved in one situation there are many other scenarios happening around the space which you are not witnessing, adding to the idea of the unknown and therefore making every audience member’s experience completely unique. For the benefit of those audience members who do not arrive in time for the 8.30pm entry and instead join this weird and wonderful world at 9pm the earlier scenes are repeated, helping to fill in some of the gaps. Much of the excitement of this piece comes from its mystery, so I am loath to give anything else away. Cirxus is a place of the unknown and should remain so for those of you yet to enter this demented playground. - Rachel Sheridan Related Content
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