// Premiere Season

The Melba Spiegeltent, 11 - 12 Nov 2016



Lyn Zelen

13 Nov 2016


★★★★☆ The Carnival of Lost Souls is a macabre and mysterious Cabaret.

// A 19th Century Gothic Circus haunts the Melba Spiegeltent. The living dead slink in the middle of the night and cast shadows with their lanterns.  They converge around the Ringmaster.  He surveys and they obey.

The Carnival is eternal torment for a Gypsy Fortune Teller (Aurora Kurth) and a lovesick Clown (Anthony Craig).  Both are damned in the afterlife wanting something they can never have.

The Gypsy narrates her betrayal; her love, the philandering Ringmaster (Graham Coupland). Her voice is a delicate accompaniment to the brilliant and distinctive score by Platonic.

Anthony Craig is a delight to watch as the optimistic Clown, in the dark abyss of the Carnival. He waits patiently for the Gypsy to notice him.

The story continues as the acrobatics of The Carnies defy gravity. The Carnies act is aptly named ‘This Side Up’. The three ghoulish muscular men balance upside down and sideways on anything, including each other.

Between each masterful act the two torn souls—the Gypsy and the Clown–sing of their passion and unrequited loves. The Gypsy is taunted while the Ringmaster admires the beautiful Aerialist (Hannah Trott). She swings gracefully and contorts her slight frame, around a ring hanging from the roof of the big top.

The Clown can’t bear to watch the Gypsy suffer anymore and plots a way to win her heart. Anthony Craig embodies Coupland’s bizarre yet alluring story.  He’s a tall gangly man with a boyish face and ‘Alice Cooper’ made-up eyes. His gentle voice and innocent manner, ingratiate the audience instantly.

The Conjurer (Richard Vegas) takes pity on the Clown. Vegas places a fob watch into a small box.  He then places the box on a side table and proceeds to dance with the table that floats in mid air.  He finishes his waltz and has conjured the watch into a ring, for the Clown’s pending proposal.

Circus Trick Tease are the Carnival’s physical entertainers. They take to drinking in their everlasting condemnation. Even the booze can’t stop the two sinister men balancing on moving boxes, bottles, and glasses.

The European (Farhad Ahadi) finishes his bottle of wine and jams the upturned bottle into a box atop three towering boxes. He proceeds to balance on the crown of his head, upside down, on top of the bottle.

Circus Trick Tease increases the audience anxiety when they swing their female counterpart around by her hands and ankles as if she were a skipping rope.  Then the Carnies join in for a bout of ‘human-jump-rope’ over her swinging body.

The Gypsy endures her eternal damnation while the Ringmaster blatantly flirts with other female members of the troupe. The Clown seizes the opportunity to propose.  Rejection and the reality of Carnival life; wipes the smile off his face.  Anthony Craig gives a credible performance as a drunken lost soul.

Coupland creates a good balance between adrenaline pumping acrobatics, illusions, and soulful original songs. There is no room for error in the intimate afterworld of the Melba Spiegeltent. The physical entertainment and illusions are quite a spectacle, as they are performed within close proximity of the audience.

Tracie Morley’s innovative choreography is reminiscent of her stunning work in (Spiegelworld’s – Absinthe & Empire, Baz Luhrmann’s – Moulin Rouge & The Great Gatsby).

Terence O’Connell’s eye for detail is exceptional and the Carnival comes to life with Clockwork Butterfly’s precise period costumes.

Graham Coupland’s Gothic Cabaret is magnificent. Witness the weird wonders and wanderers at The Carnival of Lost Souls.




// Sucked down a rabbit hole, into a dark, magical 19th century gothic circus, we attended the world premiere of The Carnival of Lost Souls last weekend in the perfect setting of the Melba Spiegeltent, Collingwood – and we loved it a little bit.

The story itself was built around a tragic love triangle, a beautiful tortured soul gypsy lady, pined after by the unnoticed sad-faced clown, as she herself has already given her heart to a cold, philandering carnival ringmaster, but the real highlights here – were the detailed, Clockwork Butterfly designed Victorian costumes, the unbelievable balancing acts performed by dead-eyed hoodlums and lacey-panted ladies resurrected from a bygone era.

The original score soundtrack was reminiscent of the sounds of Smashing Pumpkins as each act was broken up with songs performed by a mysterious guitar player in the wings and the two star crossed lovers in turn.

If you are looking for a happy ending, you may not find it in this dark carnival of doomed deities, but if you like a ripping guitar riff, glorious steampunk nostalgia and fantastic feats of acrobatic awesomeness, this show hits the mark in every way.

A beautiful yin and yang blend of music, art and physical performance.



// The Carnival of Lost Souls is a new production on the Spiegeltent circuit and has all of the style and panache we have come to expect from these offerings. It is not circus, it is not a magic show, it is not a concert. It is all of these and more. It is Carnival!

As the deathly pale figures emerge into the space in their 19th century garb, the ghostly apparitions made me think of All Hallow's Eve just gone. These lost souls, caught between being and not being are called to gather in this place by the ring master and search for that which they are grieving by reenacting their melancholy over and over again - trapped forever in a non-reality of play and despair.

 The Carnival of Lost Souls is Noir from beginning to end. The pace is ponderous, yet spookily light as we watch the clown try to win his love again and again and again - never to succeed, never to be released. Highly choreographed tableaux frame these souls like photographs in an album before releasing them momentarily so they can continue in their quest for salvation, only to recapture them in an unforgiving frame.

The highlight for me was the finale which has all the shock and awe you could ever expect to experience in group acrobatics. I have never seen a human skipping rope before and I am not sure my heart could take it if I ever did again!

The aerialist, Trott, was also absolutely amazing. Her beauty and grace on the hoop was breathtaking and who doesn't enjoy a great silks routine? This Side Up do a fantastic hand balancing routine, showing wonderful strength and unison work. Their chair routine was fun and fabulous as well.

Circus Trick Tease bring the carnivalesque to The Carnival of Lost Souls with feats of levitation and legerdemain which we don't often see anymore. Whilst the prestidigitation is still a bit rusty in parts, it is great fun and if you are addicted to LOL cats you will go crazy with 'awwww shucks' at one point.

My only hesitation with this show is I felt there were too many songs (although Maunder and Craig are magnificent singers), and they all started to sound the same after a while with no differentiation in pace or mood. The choreography during the songs became tedious and interfered with the action of the show as well. It was great to set the mood, and the odd reprise was good, but the first half of the show was really drawn out. Two less songs at the beginning would be great and some carnival during the songs would be better than the choreography. This could be a great opportunity for some smaller balance work or magic to occur. Craig and Kurth really need to engage more with the Carnival as well I feel, although Maunder was a last minute replacement due to illness which may have something to do with this problem. I also don't think it was choreographed for an in-the-round venue...

I am probably being too picky though. The whole night was a wonderful traverse through the netherworld of the unascended. The costumes were magnificent and Bovaird's lighting gave the whole show that wonderful shadowy underrealm feel needed to set the mood and give the Carnival texture.

The Carnival of Lost Souls is a wonderful and unique Spiegeltent experience. Prepare to laugh and enjoy the gloomiest night of your life!