From tiny black boxes to 2,000+ seat theatres, the team at Circa are no strangers to scaling a production to suit almost any venue. So what happens when you remove the venue all together and try something completely different? Depart is a production that takes place well and truly outside the box – and in graveyard.
Premiering in 2016 at the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, this ethereal production is a promenade work, meaning audience members literally journey on foot across multiple locations to follow and discover the action happening around them. Depart sees audience members journey down the garden path, off the beaten track, and down the rabbit hole to experience this irreal performance where life and death intersect.
After performing in London, this month Depart will embark on its UK Tour, performing in Hull, Blackpool and Brighton.
THE TRAGEDY OF ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE
While not dictated by the narrative, Depart draws its inspiration from the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Within the legend, Orpheus is the son of the god Apollo, and is gifted with the ability to play a lyre so magnificently that all living things that hear his music could not resist its beauty.
Orpheus weds Eurydice, and, despite being blissfully happy, Eurydice dies shortly after their union. Orpheus played his lyre with such passion that the Gods allow him to descend to the Underworld to recover Eurydice’s soul. Even the King of the Underworld Hades was moved by his impassioned playing, and allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice back to the living on the condition that he does not look back before reaching the light.
Orpheus proceeded to leave the Underworld, but lost faith in his final steps and turned around – the saw Eurydice’s shadow for a moment before she was gone forever in a blaze.
PREPARING TO DEPART
The scope and environment of the graveyards lend itself to delivering a number of surreal concepts played out.
“I imagine this piece as a series of reflections in a cut-glass chandelier.” said director Yaron Lifschitz to Lyn Gardner in an interview with The Guardian last year. “You see many images of the same thing. Every element, from the video work to the choreography to the circus, is all connected to a very small set of images: there are themes of turning around or walking towards, of looking for something, or losing something and being stuck.”
Depart isn’t just comprised of members from the Circa Ensemble. This logistical behemoth also includes local singers and dancers, students and up-and-coming artists from London’s prestigious National Centre for Circus Arts, and local choir for every location visited. Libby McDonnell designs spellbinding costumes and the legendary electronic record producer Lapalux and composer Sam Glazer provide a transcending musical score.
“Many little clue moments are stitched throughout the work. It’s textured in such a way that creates the feeling of walking through a series of elusive memories and impressions. It’s not tragic, in fact it’s strangely joyous, and I really like the fact that it works like a dream and it’s ephemeral, like existence itself.”
Depart is a production by Circa, commissioned by LIFT Festival, the National Centre for Circus Arts, Spitalfields Music, Hull UK City of Culture 2017, LeftCoast and Brighton Festival.