As a piece of storytelling theatre this works relatively well, engaging with the audience and adding some humorous and gender-bending sparkle to familiar fairytales like Aladdin.
In the play-within-a-play format of Feast, we are invited to a tenth anniversary party for the couple who make up two thirds of the main Cirque Tsuki cast. They are celebrating by running through a few of the 1001 Nights stories, some of which apparently overlap with the ‘real’ couple’s relationship problems. Unfortunately, the exact nature of these problems is not entirely clear, because Feast is the second instalment of a trilogy of Cirque Tsuki shows.
With Cirque Tsuki: Birthday and Cirque Tsuki: Parade exploring other fairytales (Red Riding Hood and the Japanese tale of Izanagi and Izanami, respectively) before and after Cirque Tsuki: Feast, the audience is presumably expected to attend all three shows to get the full backstory of the theatre company’s fictionalised on-stage personas. While the Arabian Nights aspect of Feast is self-contained enough to be entertaining in itself, it seems overly ambitious to try and get people to go to all three shows. Unless you’re extremely efficient at drawing up your Fringe schedule, Cirque Tsuki is basically asking its audience to invest the best part of a day in their three-part production. Much like those never-ending 1001 Nights stories, Feast feels like it’s designed to get us to come to the next show, which I felt was a little manipulative. There’s nothing wrong with an open-ended play, but most people don’t want to feel pressganged into seeing a sequel two hours later.
There’s plenty of snappy dialogue in Feast and Cirque Tsuki have done well to transfer these old stories to a more modern format. All three of the main actors have great comic timing, and differentiate clearly between the multiple roles they take on over the course of the show.
Cirque Tsuki’s venue design is interesting, but may seem overly twee to some audience members. The room used for Feast included a padded, bed-like stage that added an intimate feel to the 1001 Nights storytelling, but the overall aesthetic does tend towards a kind of faux-vintage cabaret look, with one of the actors actually decked out as a striped-tights-wearing “living doll.”
Cirque Tsuki are a promising young theatre company, and certainly imaginative. However, they may have bitten off more than they can chew with this three-show endeavour. They might have been better off to either concentrate on one of the three plays and discard the others, or to condense the trilogy into a single performance with a slightly longer runtime.