Given its latest work, Leaky Heaven Circus’ reputation for pushing the envelope of theatre innovation appears to be well deserved.
Sitting on a carpet facing a long line of mirrors representing the frames of a film, we see the set and much of the action behind us, reflected in these mirrors. Another strategically placed mirror on the set also reflects the action from a sofa which is placed with its back to us; a reflection of a reflection. But while a large part of the action plays out through these reflections the show also plays out around us, through us and even high above in a small room that ironically could have been a projection booth at one time in the Russian Hall’s history.
Using Faust, the legendary character who made a deal with the devil as it’s stepping off point, the show layers scenes from Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby. But in addition to re-enacting scenes from the film we also get James Long (photo right) as John Cassavetes and Emilia Symington Fedy as Mia Farrow, the stars of the Polanski film, narrating the process of filming the movie scenes. Long also explores Cassavetes’ obsession with the “method” style of acting and, in yet another layer, both Long and Symington Fedy are Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, the characters Cassavetes and Farrow play in the film.
Again the team isn’t content and adds Long, this time as himself, telling the story of living in the same home that serial-killer Clifford Olson resided in while undertaking his gruesome murders in the 80s. To mirror his story, Symington Fedy as Farrow, relates a story of Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate, who will later be murdered by serial killer Charles Manson, visiting the set of Rosemary’s Baby.
But while Long and Symington Fedy and the rest of this able cast, which includes Tanya Marquardt, Tanya Podlozniuk and Conor Wylie, do a nice job with this meta storyline, it is the Leaky Heaven Circus design team that are the real stars of this show.
Video designer Parjad Sharifi provides a kaleidoscope of visual treats including a spectacular finale of stars that literally engulf the actors and the audience. Composer and sound designer David Mesiha gives us a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar in framing the action, though at times the music overpowered the actors. Anna Kukov and Mirona Motoc provide a neutral palette in their set design for Sharifi; curtains, bedding, sofa all become surfaces for Sharifi’s projections.
While it’s many layered story and sensory cacophony make for a very quick sixty minutes, it is also its biggest problem. With its dizzying array of sparkly objects, I found myself thinking that it was sometimes just a little too clever for its own good. But I suppose, when you’ve made a deal with the devil nothing is ever going to turn out the way you expect; I’m just glad it was the gang at Leaky Heaven that made that deal and we can simply enjoy the ride.
Created by Leaky Heaven Circus. Directed by Steven Hill. A Leaky Heaven Circus production. On stage at the Russian Hall through Sunday, July 24, 2011. Tickets are available online or at the door. Visit http://www.leakyheaven.com for more information.