Saturday 28 November 2015

Sideshow review

The circus has come to town, but in the case of Sideshow, this is not a family-friendly - or even a human-friendly - circus. There are powers of darkness, death, murder and spirits from the other world that are part of this troupe and in this immersive performance, it is down to the audience to stop this travelling carnival of horrors from causing doom.

Sideshow is certainly fun but there are a number of reasons it unfortunately does not work. Firstly, the experience just isn't as scary as it proclaims to be and this is bound to be a huge disappointment for its audiences. Apart from our creepy clown friend, there aren't any frights or tension, unless the constant repeat of people jumping out of the "darkness" and growling at you are where your fears stem from.

The story, while straightforward enough, uses too much exposition in its narrative and takes away the engagement or emotional investment the audience may otherwise have felt. Meanwhile, there are scenes or instructions given to us, that don't seem to have a purpose either. At one point for example, we are told to wear some masks only to have them taken from us minutes later without explanation. There are no twists or turns as the advertising states and there are no choices we have to make throughout Sideshow; we are spoon-fed the story and directed on what we must do. While admittedly this type of immersive theatre requires a strong structure it needs to be under the guise that we, the participants, do in fact control the story.

I feel the setting and ambience of the circus environment also needs to be developed more fully, as dark lit rooms and streamers hanging off walls a circus does not make. Some creepy carnival music playing throughout, for example, would have made a huge difference in building up the tension and creating some believability.

I am a strong supporter of immersive and interactive theatre, in making the audience be an integral part of the show rather than just an observer. The pay off for both performer and audience is amazing when executed well. While Sideshow misses the mark in the horror and scare-factor and in creating a truly immersive experience, it is still an enjoyable show that will certainly create some fun and get a few laughs.

Venue: Revealed upon ticket purchase but close to CBD.
Season: Until 6 December
Tickets: $43 Full | $35 Conc
Bookings: Hunted: The Interactive Theatre Experience

* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 28 November

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