Melbourne Festival: ‘Dark Circus’ by Stereoptik

Malthouse Theatre presents the Australian premiere of Dark Circus a ‘cinema without film’ experience by the multiskilled French duo; Stereoptik.

This is an entirely unique, mixed-media visual spectacle that cannot be done justice through wording. Stereoptik duo: Romain Bermond and Jean-Baptiste Maillet who remain on either side of the large screen as they build and orchestrate a big-top universe live. The show is akin to a very, very, very sophisticated shadow puppet show as the world of Dark Circus consists largely of dark figures, objects and structures against a brightly lit screen.

Their projections narrate the story of the sinister ringmaster who invites the inhabitants of a gloomy city to a circus tent, where they preside over catastrophic acts. The trapeze artist plummets, the animal trainer is devoured, the human cannonball is lost in space…

Layers are cleverly adjusted by Stereoptik, who draw with a variety of media including: ink, sand, pre-fabricated pieces, water and objects they have on hand such as their musical instruments and literally, their hands. Their physical rendering of scenes is flawless. As the circus commences, a number of different environments are built, manipulated, erased, re-created and alterred all in real time and by hand – in real time too! There is never a distraction from the narrative though, if anything, it complements the art that has gone into it as the audience is treated to a multitude of alternative animation techniques including stop motion and a tiny bit of pre-recorded material and fine art painting and drawing.

On top of everything, the whimsical funk and soul soundtrack is also, mostly the creators playing a number of different instruments live! Dark Circus is an ode to classical, nostalgic Circus, black and white cinema, multi-media art and music and of course, successful multitasking. The cheers of the audience during the show, voice the Circus audience of Stereoptik’s world, adding another live element. Suitable for ages 8 and up, this is an experience worthwhile for people of all tastes, particularly if you’re into animation and experimental art… and all your friends and family within the age limit.

9.5/10

 

Stereoptik’s last performance of Dark Circus as a part of the Melbourne Festival is on tonight, tickets available here.

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