Sounds and Sorcery Celebrating Disney Fantasia at the Vaults Theatre

Carleigh Nicholls reviews a new interactive experience below Waterloo Tube Station with a Disney theme. 

Within the instruction pamphlet describing the evening’s event, Walt Disney is quoted: “Fantasiais not really a concert, not a vaudeville or a revue, but a grand picture of comedy, fantasy, ballet, drama, impressionism, colour, sound and epic fury.” Taking inspiration from Disney’s words, the Vaults Theatre has created an immersive world for audience members to become a part of its Sounds and Sorceryexperience. Although Disney appears prominently on the posters and in the advertising, be warned that if you’re hoping to see Mickey Mouse here, you will be disappointed. Instead, Director Daisy Evans has created an avant-garde production loosely based on Disney’s Fantasia.

The Nutcracker Suite. Photograph: Hanson Leatherby

Located underneath Waterloo Station in the colourful Leake Street graffiti tunnel, the physical experience is part of the attraction of this production. Audience members collect their headphones and an i-Pod at the entrance of the tunnels, and photography is actively encouraged. With your headphones on, you enter into the dank tunnels to the sounds of classical music, newly recorded for this production under the direction of Stevie Higgins. There are six varying sized rooms. While some rooms have specific performance times, the others are left for you to discover at your own pace. Two of the rooms feature live performances, while the others involve light and animation.

The first short performance is inspired by Fantasia’smost famous sequence, that of “the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”Following the beat of the music and the sorcerer’s (Natasha Volley) silent instructions, three apprentices (Anna Alvarez, Samuel Cole and Molly Scott) rhythmically clean the room, and get into trouble along the way. The sequence is mostly fun, although there are some murderous insinuations that may be troubling for children. The other live performance is the comedic “Dance of the Hours,” which involves dancers dressed like their animated counterparts: the ostrich (Janina Smith), hippo (Angelo Paragoso), elephant (Phil Sealey) and alligator (Miranda Menzies). Choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Menzies shows some real skill in her acrobatic performance. The others are mostly there for comedic relief, as their dances are less intricate.

The Dance of the Hours. Photograph: Laurence Howe

The production succeeds in its interactive rooms designed by Kitty Callister. For instance, “The Nutcracker Suite” room is beautifully designed with large flowers, mushrooms, and water features. It is a fun room to explore with Tchaikovsky in the background. Likewise, the highlight of the whole evening is the “Ave Maria” number, where you get to explore a misty “forest” that feels straight out of a fairy tale with floating lanterns and beautiful lighting.

While the production is clearly inspired by the Disney production, it really falters due to the lack of actual Disney content. Fantasia is considered one of the most beautifully animated films of all time, and it is truly bizarre that this production does not capitalize on this raw material. There are many rooms with animated sequences of nature, as well as strange “dance” performances, and they really are so much more inferior to the animated classic. It would have been a wonderful experience to witness Disney’s masterpiece within this interactive structure, and would have ultimately made the experience all the more enjoyable. As it stands, the production is disappointingly lacking the Disney magic.

2.5/5

Sounds and Sorcery will be running at the Vaults Theatre until September 30, 2018.

Feature image: Hanson Leatherby. 


Carleigh Nicholls is a PhD Candidate in History at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, but is currently based in London. She is a great appreciator of theatre, particularly plays with a historical nature, but enjoys all genres. Her general research interests include politics, religion, and the law in Stuart Britain, with a particular focus on Restoration Scotland.

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