There can be no greater feeling than that of loving someone and being loved back. However, sometimes that gift can also be a curse. In the The Carnival of Lost Souls, ill-fated love and the afterlife are explored through the blending of circus and musical theatre. Performed in the Melba Spiegeltent, the show tell the story of a gypsy fortune teller and a giddy clown who despite being meant to be together, are destined to be apart.
A late 1800s carnival ambience is immediately established through Jason Bovaird's effective lighting design and Clockwork Butterfly's highly detailed Victorian Gothic and Steampunk costumes. As such, the acts themselves retain a simplicity in style and are more about showcasing the skill of the performers rather than distracting you with the razzle-dazzle of a large-scale circus.
Unfortunately many of these acts do not tie in well with the loose narrative of the story. While some aid the dramatic tension - such as the silks routine correlating to the gypsy fortune teller's anguish and heartbreak - the majority seem quite separate from the tale between the two lovers. The musical numbers in the show also began to feel repetitive with both performers singing about the same thing with little change in tone or mood. Some variations to these could help in keeping the energy high and the story fresh.
While the small performance space used in the spiegeltent allowed for an intimacy to be created with the audience, in this instance, the stage seemed too full of people aimlessly standing about and the direction resulted in instances of performers appearing on stage only to disappear backstage again seconds later. The physicality and movements were too grand and flashy for this sort of production and a more natural state would have supported The Carnival of Lost Souls better.
Mixing musical theatre with circus is a bold move and any innovation or challenges to the performing arts norm should be congratulated. However, while there are some elements and acts in The Carnival of Lost Souls that are entertaining to watch, it's difficult to find yourself invested in the story that is supposed to seamlessly bring all the elements of this circus-theatre show together.
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnson Street, Collingwood
Season: until 28 October | Thurs 8:30pm, Fri - Sat 9:00pm
Tickets: $55 - $75
Bookings: Carnival of Lost Souls