The Vaults, London – until 30 September 2018
The Vaults is one of London’s most exciting venues. Its labyrinth of tunnels allow it to be easily changed into a whole world of magical mazes which provide the perfect space for immersive theatre. It’s currently playing house for a multi-sensory experience which combines classical music, live performances and beautiful sets to transport us to the world of Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia. The experience is not a replica of the film, it is merely inspired by the classic; a certain mouse, for example, never makes an appearance.
The goals of this show are clear, the idea is to enchant audiences and give them a magical night but personally, it falls a little flat. In the entrance, audience members are given an iPod and a set of headphones which play varying pieces of music and tell us to wander freely throughout the various rooms. These include a volcano that seems set to erupt at any minute, a bubble wonderland, a frozen lake where lights fly around the ice whimsically and a garden of flowers where an omnipotent voice whispers, somewhat eerily, around us.
The overall concept is reminiscent of the recent Opera: Passion, Power and Politics exhibition at the V&A which took audiences on a route around a large maze of rooms whilst playing varying pieces of music and providing facts and information on the piece and era it was written/performed. Sounds & Sorcery takes the same idea but a lack of structure lets it down a lot. The idea of “choosing your own path” is exciting but if you choose wrong you are left to mill around for a long time, waiting for rooms to be ready, which takes away from the magic and leaves a lot of aimless, dead time.
Some of the rooms are exciting, namely the iconic ‘Sorcerer‘s Apprentice’ where the actors whiz around under a spell and splash water on those in the closest proximity. ‘The Dance of the Hours’ is also enjoyable, thanks to the wonderful performers, but the plot of the dance is unclear unless you realise that each person is playing an animal.
There’s a knock-kneed Flamingo, the boisterous Elephant, a hissing Crocodile who skilfully does some aerial skills and an attention loving Hippo. Each do a great job of performing but in comparison with the other rooms it feels random.
If all the rooms included performers it would be a much more enjoyable experience. Although Kitty Callister’s designs are magical and bright and the stunning music such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring which surrounds us is wonderful, there’s nothing keeping us in each room for more than a minute or so.
The lack of structure combined with some fraying parts of the set make the whole thing feel amateurish and Sounds and Sorcery Presents Disney Fantasia doesn’t quite hit the mystical mark it’s aiming for. There are a few brief magical moments and the design is wonderful but there needs to be a cohesiveness and draw to really transport audiences and give them “wow” moments rather than, “that’s cool, let’s move on”.
Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia runs at The Vaults until 30th September
photo credit: Hanson Leatherby and Laurence Howe