Cirque Tsuki: Birthday

We’re standing in the atrium of C Nova as a balloon wanders down from above with a note. It reads ‘The Circus is Open’ and with that, we’re invited into the world of Cirque Tsuki. A charming children’s show, this birthday celebration for Madame Mist, played by the wonderful Emily Hodgson, invites children to enter the world of the circus. Clambering on stage, playing dominos, eating marshmallows; they’ll be spoilt for choice for exciting things to do.

Welcomed by invitations to play games and eat sweets or to write wishes on a wishing tree, adults and children alike are instantly immersed in the world of the Circus.

Welcomed by invitations to play games and eat sweets or to write wishes on a wishing tree, adults and children alike are instantly immersed in the world of the Circus. It’s a slow start yes, but one that essentially sees children set centre stage which remains a crucial part of any children’s show. Andy Mann as the Sweet Man is brilliantly understated, naturalistic and offsets the hyperbolic telling of the tales themselves, grounding the ‘Cirque Tsuki’ happily before the real tale of ‘little (red riding) hood’ begins. This interactive show revels in cunning immersion, calling out to the crowd of children to help develop the narrative of the tale. The magic words they call out make a man disappear and a river flow; they’re given a power that’s enthralling.

However it might have to be Jessica Kay’s stunning shadow puppets that ultimately steal the show, with the gorgeous designs adding an extra touch of magic to an otherwise static stage. We’re whisked away across an enchanted forest and even shown inside a wolf’s belly, so unlimited is the scope of the world of shadows. Sadly despite their exciting range the shadows remain liable to mistakes and transitions often remain awkward and fumbled, distracting from the ambitious effects Kay clearly aims to create. Clancy Flynn’s costume and design are similarly admirable in their scope, with the entire monochrome circus decked out to the nines. There is clearly a lot of loving work and imaginative inventiveness behind this performance; it just doesn’t quite seem to be delivering everything it wants to at this time.

Under the direction of Rosanna Mallison the actors can enchant, Owen Templeton shines in his role as the shape-shifting wolf and particularly with his rendition of little hood’s grandmother while Millicent Wilkie’s depiction of the living doll Tiffin is frankly disturbing. The mournful expression she maintains as she is shut away in a box at the end of the production far more upsetting than the eating of little hood in the tale itself; a final tableaux that hints that there might be more to the world of Cirque Tsuki than there first appears.

This production is clever and sweet and just a little sinister, an enjoyable time for any little one.

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The Blurb

From the woods of darkest Europe, inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. The Cirque Tsuki is celebrating the birthday of Madame Mist, the mischievous storyteller's assistant. As the clock strikes midnight, she opens her present and the shadows come pouring out, bringing Madame Mist and the audience on a journey of discovery. Birthday is the first in the trilogy of the Cirque Tsuki, is the most optimistic piece of the three, and is suitable for younger children. 'A fantastic five-star piece of theatre ... massively enjoyed by all ages' (