Edinburgh Festival Theatre Studio
August 11, 2018
Hocus pocus. Magic. Playful magic. And to a certain extent Philippe Saire’s production of the same title does deliver. Designed as a spectacle for young children and their families, it’s a bringing together of dance, visuals and lighting to tell a story of two brothers, played by Mickaël Henrotay-Delaunay and Ismael Oiartzabal Dancers, and how bravery and confidence can overcome darkness and fear.
It’s probably best seen as an installation. Almost the whole show takes place in the black hole between two strip lights. The opening is very smart, light and darkness used to make it appear as if arms and legs are disembodied and floating in space. But it is a little like watching something on a huge television, and those bright strips make it very hard on the eyes.
As Hocus Pocus weaves its way, there is some play with faces rather than limbs. A faceless warrior in chainmail is rather effective, although not in the least bit scary, and some fun with a spider’s web. Things turn a touch darker with what sounds like an airplane crash. Somehow we then find ourselves in the company of a few mysterious creatures from the depths, one of which actually eats one of the actor dancers. It’s all very friendly, children’s animation-like, though, and not at all frightening.
The soundtrack, based around Grieg’s Peer Gynt suites works well, although the recording (or the equipment) sounded decidedly ropey.
There are so many possibilities here but they largely feel untapped. As clever as the use of light and darkness is, once you’ve worked out the idea there is very little left and time drags rather. It does feel like a collection of disparate ideas and more narrative would improve matters enormously. Given the lack of fidgeting, presumably the youngsters in the audience were engaged, although equally, apart from a few light laughs, there actually wasn’t much response either, which probably says it all.