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Cirque du Sique: A Grave Affair (theatre review)

Intimate, interactive theatre is like providing therapy for a demented Cirque du Soleil

As if dining with vampires were not enough, there is even more fun at The Count’s Den this holiday season. In addition to Bite: Season’s Bleedings, there is also Cirque du Sique: A Grave Affair. Another immersive theatrical experience, this one has a distinctly different flavor: absent vampires, Cirque du Sique incorporates horror imagery (creepy undertaker, sinister spells, dark secrets), but it’s more flamboyantly bizarre that outright frightening in its portrayal of a family of circus performers attending a funeral for their matriarch, whose influence over them may have been more than merely psychological. As the title suggest, Cirque du Sique feels a bit like a demented version of Cirque de Soleil, with you, the audience, rubbing shoulders with the performers.

The ninety-minute interactive play is divided into three sections. In the first plays a bit like an actors showcase, with the family members not only delivering eulogies but also displaying the skills (dancing, fire-eating, swordplay) they learned from their adoptive mother, a charismatic woman who made them what they are, psychologically if not literally, bestowing upon them archetypal names such as Filth and Desire. In the second, the ceremony breaks up, and guests are invited to interact up close and personal with the characters in private rooms, learning that the tragic circumstances that lead these orphans to join the circus may not have been entirely accidental. In the finale, a missing spell is rediscovered, which has the potential to right old wrongs, but the results are not exactly what was expected….

Thanks to the exaggerated theatricality of its characters, particularly the sinister funeral attendant, who is sometimes referred to as “Lurch,” Cirque du Sique flirts with camp, but it is not a comedy. It’s more like a domestic drama with flair, thanks to the eccentric showbiz characters (one converses with audience members while dangling overhead like a trapeze artist). During these one-on-one encounters, disturbing details emerge, which the characters dimly suspect, while sometimes refusing to acknowledge. Audience members become de facto therapists, guiding characters toward unpleasant truths they may prefer to deny.

This makes Cirque du Sique even more interactive than Bite: Season’s Bleedings, enlisting the audience as an intimate part of the drama. The result is enjoyably engaging, but it does lead to some confusion about how active a role we are expected to play. Characters ask for help finding the spell that may reverse their problems, but it is not clear whether we are actually expected to physically locate the missing pages (the answer is no).

Ultimately, the pages are uncovered, leading to an over-the-top climax mixing horror and burlesque in a way that goes beyond flirting with camp. It’s not quite The Rocky Horror Show, but it has a similar vibe, providing the perfect really big finish to this strange circus act. Haunt-seekers with a taste for macabre fun should have a very good time.

Cirque du Sique: A Grave Affair rating

Bottom Line

Flamboyantly campy and creepy, Cirque du Sique: A Grave Affair offers an enjoyable opportunity for audiences to interact with a dysfunctional family of circus performers at the funeral of their family matriarch.

Cirque du Sique: A Grave Affair continues at the Count’s Den on Sundays through December 19, with performances at 7pm and 9pm. The address is 1039 S Olive Street in Los Angeles. Get more information at thecountsden.com.

Cirque du Sique Review: Photo Gallery

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.