The Dust Palace (New Zealand), York Theatre, until October 14

My Two Pence

My Two Cents

By Penny Warwick


I walked into this production expecting to be blown away, the genres of physical theatre and cirque are two of my favourite and the promised combining of the two was an intoxicating thought for me. Ultimately, however, 'The Goblin Market' revealed a confused piece of theatre with circus thrown in - or was it a circus show with some acting parts... I didn't know what it was, and I don't think it did either.


As we entered the balcony, it became clear how obstructed our view was going to be throughout. Whilst I am not a fan of promenade characters/audience interaction before a show, in this case, we could barely see what was happening anyway.


The staging and projections work well, and the flashes of measures on the poem were particularly haunting and effective. Although again, from the balcony the flickering directly above was somewhat distracting. The sound was hit and miss, with some spoken word sections on a microphone not levelled properly making it hard to hear what was actually being said.


This is an incredibly hard job for the three performers who must take on the lead roles; the sisters, Laura and Lizzie, and a 'main' goblin/male figure, whilst also creating the idea that there are many goblins - they switch out of character to move set pieces or to break the fourth wall as their highly stylized and caricatured masked-monsters. The performers are best in their cirque moments, the amount of skill shown is staggering and their years of experience in their effortlessness is spellbinding. The duet between the sisters at the end of the show might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen on a stage this size; the twisted and contorted dance/movement solo by Laura as we are told how broken she is was profound and upsetting; the first silks solo performed by the Goblin man was breathtaking. However, I can't help but feeling that if The Goblin Market concentrated solely on the cirque it would have been a stronger piece overall with a more satisfying punch. It is based on an incredibly dark poem, and while I can understand the temptation to try to explore all the ideas, sometimes it is better to simplify. 


It has been a few days and I am still a little at a loss in putting my words to paper. Expect the unexpected with this show. It certainly is like nothing else I have seen.

By Daphne Cranbrook


Based on Christina Rosetti’s 1862 poem of the same name, The Goblin Market brings us on a journey of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, exploring the fruits of the “goblin men.” Laura succumbs to the temptation of the goblins’ wares, while Lizzie resists, and watches her sister descend into the darkness of addiction. The story is played out through cirque acts on trapeze, aerial silks, rope, aerial hoop, stacked chairs, and balance beam; projections; songs and poetry performed at a single microphone downstage right; and mime work. While the material this work is based on is rich with potential, and the temptation may be to try to do it all and to the utmost, this production seemed to fall into the trap of trying to do too much.


The ensemble consists of three members—two female and one male—who are, without a doubt, extremely talented cirque performers. Their obvious commitment to and expertise in cirque performance made the acrobatic segments something wondrous to behold. Rochelle Mangan, in particular, had an almost otherworldly way of contorting, vaulting, swinging, and suspending her body, to the point of disbelief. I found Eve Gordon’s Lizzie to be very enjoyable to watch, as well. She was obviously comfortable onstage and in the air, and did a convincing job portraying a devoted sister who desperately wants to save her loved one. Her strength and agility was mesmerizing. Edward Clendon’s portrayal of the goblin was brash and unreserved. Clendon, too, is a beast of a circus performer, and seemed to truly be enjoying himself and the challenge this role provides. Some of the goofiness of his character didn’t make sense to me, though, and I had a hard time understanding whether I was supposed to be laughing at the goblin king’s antics, or shuddering for the creepiness of it.


The projection design was expertly crafted and served to enhance the story being told, however, being seated in the balcony meant that the constantly flickering of the projector became a distraction. That being said, I appreciated the care and thought given to the projections; it felt a little like watching a beautiful silent film. The music, as well, was thoughtfully chosen and complimented both the story being told and the mood of each scene.

The bits at the lone microphone were somewhat confusing for me. Not terrible, but I didn’t necessarily see how they propelled the story forward. At one point, when Laura is centre-stage and in the depths of her depravity, the microphone turns into a soapbox, and Eve Gordon delivers a veritable PSA about the danger of trying to save anyone ‘damaged.’ I did not appreciate the tone of this speech, and found it jarring in relation to the

style of the rest of the production.


I really, really wanted to be on board with this show, and eagerly anticipated the viewing. I am all for immersive, genre-bending theatre productions, and all for theatre companies who are trying something new and taking risks. In the end, though, Goblin Market felt overdone. They bit off a little more than they could, or needed to, chew. Because the cirque material was so utterly mind-blowing, some of the other parts of the show seemed superfluous and reaching. With a little paring and simplifying, however, this production has the potential to be a completely spell-binding and moving

theatrical experience.