Founded in 2013, Asheville, NC’s Fox & Beggar Theater performs what the company calls “dreampunk cirque nouveau.” This is no Cirque du Soleil. It’s better. F&BT focuses its energy on storytelling — dark stories told through dance, acrobatics, puppetry, music, and animation — rather than spectacle for its own sake.
Fox & Beggar Theater’s latest touring production, co-presented with Raleigh’s Cirque De Vol Studios on Saturday, Aug. 13th, in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, is Tarocco: A Soldier’s Tale came to Raleigh last weekend to close out its Southeastern tour of five cities. The concept for Tarocco is deceptively simple: On the battlefields of World War I, a story is shared between two men. Its plot is derived from the 22 Tarocchi — better known as tarot cards. Twenty-two circus/dance acts in one evening is a daunting task for a company as well as its audience. However, company founder and writer/producer/director Nat Allister is evidently a mad genius who is more than willing to take on the concept.
Led by dancer Ross Daniel as The Fool (the 0 card in the tarot deck), we are guided through 21 different short stories, accompanied by an original score by Nashville-based composers Marcin Bela and Lisa Harkness. Bela is known for his EDM (electronic dance music) compositions, and it shows here. It’s as if Ravi Shankar got deeply into trance music and made a concept album.
The Aug. 13th performance was as impressive as any circus work that I’ve ever seen, but had an additional element: story. This story, though very loose, kept the audience engaged and constantly asking what delights we would be privy to next. The cast of 10 performers consisted of acrobats, dancers, contortionists, gymnasts, object manipulators, and puppeteers. Each member of the company performed so many feats in this production that one felt as though there was a cast of at least 25.
Especially impressive skills were displayed by Jay Clement on the corde lisse, Marta Brown on the Cyr wheel, Matthew Reyna’s repertoire of juggling, and Ross Daniel’s intense and violent solo dance.
Some sound issues (bass too high to fully understand the narration and an ever-present blown-out speaker) were minor distractions, but nothing could stop this show from dazzling. It was dreamlike in every way, including the fact that I would have preferred not to wake up from it.
If you weren’t able to catch Tarocco, be not afraid! Fox & Beggar Theater’s next show, The Aleph, premieres in 2017, and promises to continue their journey into the nexus of dance, theater, and circus. This new work, based on South American metaphysical folklore, will test-run on the East Coast in the spring and summer, and will tour the Southeast in the fall. If Tarocco is to be any indication of this company’s mastery of the performing arts, I would get tickets to The Aleph immediately!
TAROCCO: A SOLDIER’S TALE (Fox & Beggar Theater, Aug. 13 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh).
SHOW: http://foxandbeggar.com/tarocco/, http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/tarocco-7283 and https://www.facebook.com/events/1716361278605883/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JV0UDolL0c and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTS-qtkiNCw.
Fox & Beggar Theater: http://foxandbeggar.com/tarocco/, https://www.facebook.com/FoxandBeggar/, and https://twitter.com/foxandbeggar.
Cirque De Vol Studios: http://www.cirquedevol.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CirqueDeVol/, and https://twitter.com/CirquedeVol.
Nat Allister (Fox & Beggar Theater founder and managing and artistic director): http://foxandbeggar.com/staff/ (Fox & Beggar Theater bio) and https://www.facebook.com/jacka.roe.77 (Facebook page).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing on it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.