Circus at its offbeat best, the Goblin Market is a fun mashup of old and new

The Dust Palace's new circus show, the Goblin Market, is a mix of other-worldliness and modern reality. 

“How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.”
“No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”

The Goblin Market, a narrative poem by Christina Rosetti, was published in 1862. It tells the story of sisters Laura and Lizzie as they are tempted by gorgeous fruit sold by goblin merchants and feels as if it were set in a world where fairies are real.

The Dust Palace’s 3-person circus theatre show by the same name brings that same ethereal spirit to the stage. The set has an antique bohemian feel to it, with wrought iron plinths and a gold burnished old-fashioned telephone. The acrobats fly about in way which is so hypnotising it doesn’t feel real. The archaic words of the original poem are projected onto the stage as the show progresses and yet The Goblin Market feels very modern.

The show features modern rock music including 90s riot girl band Bikini Kill, projected celluloid slides of chemicals and blood vessels, spoken reference to Herne Bay villas and the price of avocados. The sisters use modern cell phones to answer a call from the goblin’s landline. Timeless themes of addiction and sisterly love are given context in a modern way. The sisters end in an embrace of sisterly joy rather than marriage, as the poem dictates.

The goblin merchant’s seduction is made more literal than the poem and the goblin’s fruit is likened to a more literally addictive substance, which makes the plot flow nicely while the aerial theatrics keep the magic of the source material.

Rosetti’s poem is a perfect choice for the Dust Palace’s otherworldly style of acrobatics and surreal aesthetic and the two meld together seamlessly, with the modern touches bringing the 1862 story into 2019. It's probably worth reading the source material first. Even thought the show is enjoyable on its own, having read the original enriches the viewing experience and positions the audience to cotton on to the more subtle inside jokes of the interpretation.

That said, even sans context you’re never not going to enjoy the mind-bending mid-air contortions of an acrobat.

The Goblin Market is playing in Auckland until April 13 in the Aotea Centre's Herald Theatre. Tickets from $30.

Photography by: Jen Raoult

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