Trick or treat? If you’re looking for some charming yet spooky piece of theatre this Hallowe’en week, Sickle Moon Productions & Illustrated Productions have just the treat for you. Cirque des Reves, written by Katie McCann and directed by Jeda de Bri, is a ghostly tale wonderfully told by four actors on the stage of the Boy’s School in Smock Alley.
As soon as you are lead down the ramp and into your seat, you are eyed up and down by two men who perch on the edge of the towering church window of the stage wall. They drink and whisper to eachother as the audience take their seats. These men are Mr. Sparrow and Mr. Nightingale, wonderfully played by Finbarr Doyle and Kevin C Olohan. They are the main storytellers of the play. The two proceed to tell a London runaway child (Katie McCann) about the ill-fated story of Poppy Parker, who, like McCann’s character, once wanted to run away and join the circus.
McCann, Doyle and Olohan become the performers who recreate the story for the spectators, with Clodagh Mooney Duggan, who plays Poppy, as the centre figure. The ensemble, all dressed like extras from Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, take on a 39 Steps-esque performance where each actor, apart from Duggan, performs as a wide range of intricate and humorous characters. Some are clownish, some creepy, some are somber and some are full of song. As the audience delve deeper into the story, which in the end does become slightly predictable, something that must be admired about the cast and also McCann’s writing is how different each character is than the previous.
From clowns to blind fortune tellers to puppeteers, the versatility of the ensemble prevents the play’s energy from dropping throughout the piece. Aoife Fealy’s set design must also be commended. There is nothing more wonderful as a theatre goer than seeing a production that uses its space to its full advantage. The stone walls of the Boys School are bare, while tea chests and bric-a-brac litter the stage. It truly gives that Victorian London dark alley atmosphere that the play is best suited for. Homemade multi-coloured circus buntings hang from the balconies down to the centrepiece, a wardrobe lit by a singular light bulb acts as both changing area and stage for the ensemble. The one flaw with the centrepiece was the door which continued to swing open unintentionally, even as cast members attempted to close it again, unfortunately making the transitions appear unpolished and distracted at times. But these flaws do not eclipse the performances of the cast.
Cirque des Reves, is a gothic, mystical and thoroughly enjoyable piece of work created by Sickle Moon and Illustrated and is a treat to enjoy for audience of any age (preferably 9 or older).