Tarot the VAULT Festival: A hypnotic performance of burlesque circus, jazz fusion and mysticism
“If dabbling in the dark arts of mystical prognostication didn’t have you clutching your beads, then watching Ruby literally play with fire will certainly change that. “
The Vaults has been transformed into magical, Elysian Fields of art and theatre. As you enter, the world outside is quickly shut out as The Vaults Theatre takes into its enclaves, as it ushers you in under its dark cloak. Buzzing bars to your left and right, art installations made up of TV screens flickering stock images and static, excited chatter create at atmosphere unique to the VAULT festival. At the very end of a tunnel with doors leading to different stages, which seem like portals into other universes, my journey begins at ‘Forge’, at the very end of this tunnel.
After becoming a successful hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Feathers return to the VAULT Festival with Tarot. We follow the stories of lovers, fools and the hanged man, emancipated from their cards and let loose on stage.
We are greeted with a tarot card, face down on our seats that one picks up with either a giddy curiosity or with the nonchalance you’d look at a takeaway leaflet on your doormat with. To me, the unknown is always mystical, and so I turn over my card embracing the will of destiny that led me to this particular row, this particular seat and this very special card. Knight of Pentacles. Sat on a horse, the knight is depicted to be sat on a stationary horse; in his right hand, he holds a gold coin engraved with a pentacle. Pentacles are said to represent materialism, and this coupled with a noble knight sat on a steady horse, is a sign of financial security…Maybe the Euromillions is worth a go this week?
The enveloping darkness of the stage, that is tinted with a purple-ish blue from neon lights that spell ‘TAROT’ at the back, certainly invites you to heighten your sleeping senses, to allow you intuition to do most of the work in deciphering the reality around you. A band – a soul-funk band called Yoshi – plays ethereal music that makes you feel somewhat buoyant, suspended in space and like you’re experiencing zero gravity. The same band is responsible for taking you further down the rabbit hole with crashing cymbals, rhythmic funk and psychedelic jazz fusion.
Our host for the night is the enchanting Ruby Wednesday, who is fiery, charismatic and demands the audience’s captivation, which isn’t difficult as he stands upright and tall in a suit, a pair of heeled, patent-leather boots, wearing false eyelashes accompanied with dramatic, winged eyeliner and gorgeous cyan-blue hair. This multifaceted host treats some chosen members of the audience to a live tarot reading. The downfall of audience participation is almost always down to the host being unlucky enough to pick someone fairly boring. It takes a very masterful host – I mean like Graham Norton levels – to turn an unfortunate situation like that around and there was one such lifeless audience member that Ruby seemed to be draining his reservoir of charm for, to no avail. Fortunately, we are distracted with performers in the background who are twisting and contorting their bodies around a suspended piece of rope, doing handstands on rods or forming a real-life Vitruvius man within a hoop and spinning madly.
Ruby finishes the show, topless, dancing seductively to dreamy music with a torch on fire. Extending one of his arms at a time, he gracefully runs the lit torch up them. If dabbling in the dark arts of mystical prognostication didn’t have you clutching your beads, then watching Ruby literally play with fire will certainly change that. Slowly, he descends to kneel on one knee, leans back and breathes fire perfectly in time to the explosive sound of a struck cymbal. Our most basal, primitive fascinations are ignited at the sight of fire. In the same way, our human obsession, borne out of existentialism, with the future, the stars, the sky and our place in the universe is captivated with mysticism.
This hypnotic show of burlesque circus, music, mysticism and storytelling is rich in creativity. Even if you a sceptic, this is one magical evening.
Tarot was on from the 28th – 1st February at The Vaults on Leak Street
Feature photo Credit: Sukhmani Sethi
Other photos courtesy of VAULT Festival Press