With the pinnacle of circus acts just a few provinces away, you would think such shows would be a tough sell to Canadian audiences. Based on the reception from the opening night crowd for The Dust Palace’s The Goblin Market it is apparent we can’t seem to get enough.
There is a reason aplenty though for the reaction as with exquisite effortlessness, Eve Gordon, Rochelle Mangan, and Edward Clendon perform on rings, aerial silks, balance beam, and on the floor. There is such control and strength in their acrobatic performances it is at times breathtaking.
While acrobatic feats of daring are the reason audiences continue to be captivated by these types of contemporary circuses, to keep things interesting there is a requirement to constantly reinvent how the nearly identical acrobatics are presented. One need only look as far as the Quebec circus juggernaut to see the extent repackaging becomes necessary, giving the illusion of something new.
In The Goblin Market, New Zealand’s The Dust Palace finds their mix of circus performance and storytelling from Christina Rossetti’s Victorian poem, from which the title is taken. As a vehicle though, it is a difficult sell unless you are already familiar with the poem.
For those of us who go in without any advance knowledge, the experience becomes divorced from an esoteric inspiration. It then boils down to acrobatic execution, and the accompanying visuals and sound. In this production, all three are top notch.
Particularly impressive, alongside the performers, is the show’s sound where reimagined covers of the familiar are combined with other-worldly instrumentals. There is little doubt sales of The Goblin Market soundtrack could easily become an additional revenue stream.
Creating the world in which all of this exists is also just as important, and again this show keeps things interesting. Contemporary and gritty projections juxtapose against snippets of Rossetti’s 1862 poem. Fruit as a sexual metaphor abound.
For all its visual and auditory feast, and awe-inspiring tricks though, one can’t help but wonder what might have been possible had creator Eve Gordon looked elsewhere for inspiration.
The Goblin Market created by Eve Gordon. Directed by Mike Edward. A Cultch presentation of a The Dust Palace production. On stage at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until October 14. Visit https://thecultch.com for tickets and information.