Tuesday, 14 May 2013


As I enter into my dotage, the idea of a band who blend American folk, gypsy pop and sea-shanties has become increasingly attractive. If they then decide to promote their new album by staging a theatre performance about a Circus of Death, they probably become my favourite band of the week. 

Using the title track of the album, Cirque de Muerta is a performance that goes behind the scenes at a circus with a sinister clown - apparently, there are lions and children in close proximity. That's probably where the death comes into it.

Let's have a look at the press release....

Local writer / director Claire Wood has constructed a piece of theatre that sits around the edges of the songs. It’s designed to complement the band’s melodies and lyrics, adding a back story that knits the album together.

Ringmaster Alex tells tales of magic, mystery and wonder that enthral his audiences and his fellow circus performers. But are his silvery words enough to persuade his performers to turn a blind eye to the evil being perpetrated on their doorstep?

Lead singer Cassi, a prize prima donna who doubles as a trapeze artist, is on the verge of leaving the band and leaving the circus. Stamping her peculiar brand of bitchery on those around her, will their efforts to persuade her to leave be quite enough to tip the balance and sever the ties of love that bind her to her familiar world?

Alexei the clown has a terrible secret. He wants out and he has a plan. To leave would break his heart and that of long-term love and ex-geisha, Sachiko. But to stay means adding to his ever-growing collection of the buttons of the children whom he helps to their grisly end. 

In brief: a deadly clown, a former geisha, a trapeze artist... if this comes from a single song, I am guessing The Stantons like a spot of narrative heavy lyricism. I ought to insert the inevitable joke here about it sounding like a Saturday Night round my house...

The performance calls for seven actors; six adults and a child. Two of the characters are taken from the band, female vocalist Cari Silver and founding member/lyricist Neil Colquhoun (A Very Secret History, Calvin, Baby Tiger, Tigerfest). As well as being experienced names in the music scene in Scotland, they’ve acted previously in Edinburgh Fringe productions directed by Claire Wood.

The other actors also make regular appearances on the stages of Edinburgh. Chris Allan and Hilary Davies perform with equestrian act, Les Amis D’Onno. Matt Davies and Larry Weil have performed in productions across the UK. And 10 year old Iain Goldie made his most recent stage appearance as one of the two princes in Richard III.

He came to a bad end in that, too, I guess.

The whole concept of a circus feels increasingly archaic in a world saturated with CGI and special effects. And yet there is still something hypnotic about a live performance, whether from a band or a group of performers.

I bet they put this in to keep me sweet. But it is true. You can't beat a live show, and if you add rock'n'roll to the theatre, you get the primal energy of electric noise and the intelligent structure brought by dramatic structure...

Toying with the idea of the real and the make-believe, talented musician and film-maker Fraser Macdermid has put together a collection of multi-media musings that complement the action on stage. Drawing on archive footage from circuses along with original film shot to complement the on-stage action, Fraser has treated the film footage to enhance the heightened reality of the circus ring.

The resulting production is a multi-media extravaganza of live performance, music and film.

In a world ever more willing to put its faith in special effects, La Cirque de Muerta explores the stories we tell to avoid confronting the truth. 

The Stantons Present La Cirque de Muerta

Saturday 22 June, doors 7pm, entry £10+bf.

Electric Circus, 36 Market Street, Edinburgh 0131 226 4224.

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