Splitfoot

Splitfoot by Piper Theatre tells the tale of the Fox sisters “Devil Daughters” who, in post-civil war New York, convinced the public that they could communicate with the dead. They became the founders of the Spiritualism movement and then publicly denounced it. A visceral and intense piece, it is filled with ingenious ideas which sometimes run away with themselves leaving the audience behind.

A very powerful show that is enthralling to watch, but risks the danger of confusing the audience.

The show explores the Fox sisters’ rise to renown, the accusations of fraud placed against them, their subsequent fall from grace and collapse of their family with a heart-wrenching tale from the end of Leah’s life. We are guided though the story by a shaman-esque character who, as he plays out his own story, eventually becomes trapped by the conventions of theatre.

The production is intensely physical with the cast filling the claustrophobic thrust stage with their presence. The front row is not for the faint-hearted but those who brave it will have a fantastic experience. Characters die, painfully realistically, inches from the feet of the front row and excellently choreographed fights occur at your eye level. The performances of the cast, who take on a multitude of roles, were brilliant. Particularly poignant was the tragically comedic mother of the Fox sisters.

The show is excellently designed. The costumes are fantastic and represent the era and also look easy to move around in for the performers. In a piece based on the supernatural, the music, whispers and seamless sound effects permeate the show and work incredibly well, really adding another layer of depth to the production.

However, there were issues of confusion in the production. The main storyline is tricky to follow as it demands your full attention and a slice of guess work. Characters are introduced very quickly, with little description so you have to try and work out which ones are important enough to remember for later.

Generally the difficulty with the production is that it gets carried away with symbolism. Some of the moments of physical theatre are excellent but other times it just seems like characters are simply filling time with random movements. There seems to be some meaning wrapped up in a red scarf but it is not easy to understand as its role changed.

I would recommend the show to anyone interested in the tale of the Fox sisters. It's a very powerful show that is enthralling to watch, but risks the danger of confusing the audience. 

Reviews by M Johnson

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The infamous Fox sisters convince thousands that they can communicate with the dead by cracking their bones. Hailed as leaders of a new religious movement, they fall into dishonour and ruin. Five actors paint their rise and fall, all through the point of view of a corrupting evil entity, Mr Splitfoot. The tale of three American girls who started the 19th century Spiritualist movement in post-Civil War America. A haunting original play by John McEneny and Vasile Flutur, with an original score by Dario Eskenazi.

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