Persephone

Greek mythology has always been a favourite for adapting to the stage, though revitalising these well-known fables for audiences to enjoy time and time again can be a tricky hoop to jump through. The myth of Persephone, however, rarely suffers such difficulty. A timeless tale of love and loss, the story tells of Persephone, Goddess of Spring, and her capture by the smitten Hades, Lord of the Underworld. The painful separation of a mother from her daughter is explored as Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, sets out to recover Persephone from the Underworld at all costs – with unexpected consequences that culminate in a beautiful allegory for the yearly seasons.

Greek mythology meets a trip to the circus; this is certainly a show with a difference. Audiences hoping to see a worthy interpretation of the myth of Persephone will be disappointed – but any fans of the circus will be swept off their feet…right along with the performers themselves.

Circus Suburbia’s most recent adaptation utilises a parade of various circus skills, music, dialogue and dance to put a new spin on this memorable myth. The cast showcases a magical array of young talent, displaying jaw-dropping acts sure to elicit a gasp from the audience’s throats at some point or another. Lengths of feathery silk suspend performers even higher than the dress circle, as they twist and twirl their way through a score of mind-boggling sequences. The grace and strength of aerial hoop artist, Arabella, is a true joy to behold. Static trapeze artists display daring performances climbing, swinging and hanging from only one leg – ‘impossible’, you catch yourself thinking, but for these performers, it clearly isn’t! – Meanwhile, a selection of light-hearted tricks, such as juggling and unicycling, are performed by Harry and Kit, leave an easy smile on your face.

But Persephone strikes a wobbly balancing act between showcasing its cast’s skills and getting down to telling its story. Plot points feel shoehorned in and around each circus act at random, rather like a ringmaster who can’t quite keep up with his performers. The script suffers from an occasionally mismatched feel, almost as though it were cobbled together at the last minute. Bits of dialogue, the occasional appearance of a narrator, one song, some use of mime – and a couple of brief monologues, delivered with commendable fervour from performer Ollie, in the role of Demeter – make for a script slightly lacking in both clarity and cohesiveness.

And whilst there can be no doubt of Circus Suburbia’s talent in many areas, no troupe can lay claim to mastering every single performance skill – and the cast does tiptoe along a tightrope of sometimes-mumbled lines and slightly-fumbled dance routines. However, their steadfast enthusiasm makes up for it – but more practice outside the circus ring (possibly in the dance studio instead) would not go amiss.

Greek mythology meets a trip to the circus; this is certainly a show with a difference. Audiences hoping to see a worthy interpretation of the myth of Persephone will be disappointed – but any fans of the circus will be swept off their feet…right along with the performers themselves.

Reviews by Asja Dally

Sisters

★★★
Marlborough Theatre

Bits & Box

★★★★

Persephone

★★★

The Blurb

Circus Suburbia Youth Circus has trained locally since 2010. The company, aged 11 to 16, trains in aerial dance, acrobatics, juggling, unicycle and hula hoop; and uses performance spaces in innovative ways, working with narrative to create dynamic shows. The myth of Persephone and her abduction by Hades is brought to life with circus, dance, projection and music in the company’s first indoor show. Circus Suburbia Youth Circus transforms the Rose Theatre’s cafe and main auditorium into the brutal and sometimes very human world of the Greek gods. It is a journey which explores what happens when love is taken by force, exploits the heights and corners of the theatre and creates beautiful imagery with circus skill and props.