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Review: Tarot (Vault Festival 2020)

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Following its run last year at The Vaults, The Feathers of Daedalus Circus have brought a reimagined Tarot back to the venue via a successful stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This time the piece is fronted by drag artist Ruby Wednesday who acts as compere and tarot reader.

The piece is well suited to the eerie atmosphere of The Vaults added to by a simple but effective set and the musical talents of soul-funk band Yoshi. There’s even a single tarot card facing down on each seat adding to the anticipation of what is to come. The small space suddenly comes alive with a burst of movement as four circus performers (Imogen Huzel, Josh Frazer, Tessa Blackman and Lauren Jamieson) seemingly appear from nowhere. Each artist uses the compact stage to their advantage, squeezing seemingly impossible moves into it and impressing us even more as we are so close to the action. Huzel’s hand balancing routine as ‘The Fool’ is particularly eye-catching – her angular, flexed positions are so interesting to watch. Throughout the piece she gives an enjoyably mischievous quality to her performance. All four performers are at the top of their game, with Jamieson’s aerial routines drawing gasps from the audience and Blackman and Frazer simply making us not believe our own eyes with their ingenious routines.

Looking fabulous and fierce, Wednesday is a likeable host but her delivery is so conversational, relaxed and mostly low-key that it lacks the energy needed to hold a piece like this together. She is best when she gets to show off her quick wit and ad-libs whilst interacting with the audience and conducting a reading for a couple of lucky spectators. She also has a good voice so it is very frustrating when it is drowned out by the band, particularly their drums, in her big number (performed with extraordinary flair as she also executes a hoop routine). Sound levels are a real problem throughout with the vocalist of Yoshi being over-powered by the other musicians, to the point that it is impossible to understand a word he is singing – which obviously hinders the story telling of the piece considerably. The microphones appear to be quite poor quality as well which does not help.

The show received a standing ovation from some of its audience on the night and it’s clear to see that the circus performers are world class. There are really nice explorations of some of the tarot cards through the medium of circus (for example, a rope aerial routine demonstrating the Hanged Man) but overall, the show doesn’t quite deliver a plot that its promotional material promises. Just like the tarot card we receive at the beginning but that never gets referenced at all, it leaves us visually impressed but feeling a bit short-changed story-wise.

Tarot is on at Forge - The Vaults, Leake Street, until the 1st of Feb. Tickets are available here -

©Rah Petherbridge Photography

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