Put your hands up if you like Mickey Mouse. Hands up if you enjoyed the music from Disney’s Fantasia, including masterpieces by Schubert, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Good, so do I! I recall the Walt Disney movie from 1941; Mickey wore a red cloak and a wizard’s hat with stars on it. In one scene, he was carrying buckets of water and then, all the sudden, he’d bring a broomstick to life and command it to do all the carrying and dancing he wanted. It was great, or so I remembered as a child.
Down at The Vaults, underneath Waterloo station, there’s an immersive fairyland of lights, sights and sounds to be had. Daisy Evans’s Sounds and Sorcery: Celebrating Disney’s Fantasia is a cutting-edge immersive production that stretches the possibilities of The Vaults’ theatre space. Having seen many fringe and off-West End shows there, I was impressed to see how incredibly different the Vaults environment had changed – I felt like I had been beamed up to space to investigate enchanted forests, lairs and other eerie worlds.
It’s the range of high-end technology that really makes all the difference. It’s not like your regular theatre show. There are no actors expecting you to take a seat to watch them. (Well, except in one room that lasts for no more than 10 minutes. I say no more.) Instead, you are given a pair of Sennheiser headphones, and off you go! The point of the immersive show is for the audience to discover a multi-sensory dimension of delights through the music of Fantasia. As promised, there are various installations, many rooms, 3D projections, fascinating set designs and light shows to keep you entertained. This is down to the creative and collaborative minds of its extraordinary designers such as designers; Kitty Callister, sound designer; David Gregory, video designer; Doug Foster and lighting designer; Jake Wiltshire. I must congratulate The Vaults and all designers and directors for their hard work, and for pushing the boundaries of immersive theatre, creatively and musically.
Music director, Stephen Higgins informed me in an interview (click here for the full Q & A) that he had recorded the music of Fantasia with the 96-piece orchestra of the City of Prague Philharmonic. Together they recreated the music from the original film, which includes ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, ‘The Rite of Spring’, ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ and the ‘Nutcracker Suite’. As one will find, the headphones provide insight into the incredible playing by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and it – certainly – makes all the difference.
It is fair to say that this show can be a viewed as a subtle way of introducing children, and adults, to classical music. It is the method in which the music, composed by 18th and 19th-century composers, remain ubiquitous throughout the Vaults, no matter which room you entered. This also demonstrates how important the role of music plays in experiencing the overall production, be it a room inspired by nature and flowers or a nightmarish wasteland.
Yet, Mickey Mouse was absent throughout this immersive production, which I was looking forward to the most. If you are looking for Mickey Mouse or anything related to Disney, you will be disappointed. I feel the marketing for this show is slightly flawed. The producer mentioned, in the programme notes, how Disney was aware and an active participant in the making of this production, but I couldn’t find a trace of Disney, only on the production posters. Just walk away if you want Disney Land. There’s simply not a touch of it here – just the music of Fantasia and creative works inspired by the film.
That said, there are its pluses. If you want to experience the music of Fantasia whilst exploring a creative and visionary labyrinth, and have a fondness for taking photos and uploading them on social media, then Sounds and Sorcery is your haven. To make the most of the experience, make sure you bring along a friend and sip some interesting cocktails as you go on your tour. One thing I should also note is how warm and sticky the Vaults can seem during these summer climates, so bring a bottle of water and wear some comfortable shoes. Be prepared to get wet too. Still, do not wish upon a star as there are no promises, not even a peek, of Disney at all.
Sounds and Sorcery: Celebrating Disney Fantasia is showing at The Vaults theatre now until 30 September, 2018 . For more information on the Vaults theatre, the show and to purchase tickets, click here.
(I was provided a press ticket to review the show.)[Header image: Illustration credit: Disney.]