Photo: Nutcracker Suite featuring human-sized plant life in The Vaults presents Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia. Credit Hanson Leatherby
It’s an ambitious feat, and not an immediately obvious method to pay tribute to an animated motion picture. The Vaults presents Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia, as this production is rather cumbersomely called, is one of those shows where, fortunately or unfortunately, it helps to have sat down for a couple of hours and watched the original in the first place, or at least read freely available information about Fantasia online. Otherwise, there’s a chance one might come out of the multisensory experience thinking, as one lady almost yelled, what on earth the show is all about.
The thing about this particular production is that it’s not really ‘about’ anything, and yet it is about lots of things – the human experience, the beauty of various species of the world’s plants and flowers, and – perhaps unexpectedly for anyone encountering the world of Fantasia for the first time, copious amounts of classical music. There is some interest amongst younger people in orchestral music, perhaps because of its prevalence in the modern world. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, for instance, recently performed a PlayStation concert at the Royal Albert Hall. ‘Resident Evil’, ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ and ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ are titles that mean nothing to me, but to people who indulge in computer games, they will have listened to certain pieces of orchestral music many times before.
The same probably can’t be said of The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, or Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria. (That said, both of those are regularly heard during Advent and Christmas.) Fantasia, being a Disney film, was aimed at children, and so it is with ‘Sounds and Sorcery’. Not that the ‘big people’ get bored, but it seemed to me that children were more enthralled than anyone, captivated by, for instance, a room with patterns on the floor created by moving lights, or a live performance of dance and one-upmanship in a section called ‘The Dance of The Hours’.
I have to admit I probably spent longer in ‘timed’ sections of this immersive experience, as opposed to parts of the production which were to be enjoyed at one’s own leisure. Sufficient numbers of members of staff are on hand to guide people through, and at least on press night, the number of audience members was kept sensible, and no part of the venue ever felt overcrowded.
There is a need to wear headphones: the sound balance is smooth and consistent, though there is, perhaps inevitably, the odd moment of static interference, or ‘radio noise’, particularly when going from one room to another. There’s plenty of animation, and some care has been taken not to merely replicate the motion picture on stage – the experience closes with ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ and ‘Ave Maria’, but the images are very different from the ones in the film.
I found it difficult to warm to ‘The Rite of Spring’ – not so much the music, but at times it was so dark that I found myself standing around waiting for more light to appear in order to see where I was going. More resourceful members of the audience than I plumped for the ‘flashlight’ facility on their smartphones. Far better was ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, a rapidly paced brief performance involving physical theatre and some credible demonstrations of the power of magic. Let’s just say there are privileges afforded to those who sit in the front row.
All things considered, it’s a bit of a cliché, but there is something for (almost) everyone in this dynamic and highly kaleidoscopic production.
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