Tarot, VAULT Festival

 

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By Matthew McGregor-Morales

“We’re going to go with intuition”, Ruby Wednesday tells a lady from Chiswick, as ambience-maestros Yoshi peel out the start of a haunting, rhythmic dive into minor keys and mayhem. Returning to VAULT Festival after a break-out 2019 run, The Feathers of Daedalus have taken Tarot up a notch, blending their signature circus and dance performances with audience readings and a soul funk soundtrack with climaxes a-plenty.

Bright lights and contorted truths lead the way as the readings and storytelling from host Ruby blend against a backdrop of rope, hoop and dance. The tarot deck, saturated by popular culture to the point that it perhaps loses its meaning, is reverently brought to life (and death) by performers in a stylish hour of circus. The Hanged Man is a jerking, rushing, falling rope dance, fighting through death to claim the knowledge of Odin right after the Fool has sung their heart out.

For audiences not well-versed in the deck, this is magic and escapism wrapped up in a spotlight, but the two participating members on opening night knew their way around the cards, and Ruby could dive deep into symbolism and touch at personal meanings, flipping known interpretations through insightful and intuitive storytelling. The combination of passive reading and active performance feels novel, exciting, each reading accompanied by a performer reaching and writhing in search of the underlying truth Ruby’s words gently meandered towards.

Does it click seamlessly? Not always, but that never felt like the intention. The transitions between each section are jarring at times, as if a curtain is temporarily raised and a series of clockwork bolts and wheels need to be readjusted before the show can roll on again, yet the movements of performers and musicians held a staccato edginess of figures on an old grandfather clock, and these moments do not feel thematically out of place. Blending audience interaction, circus performance and live music is no mean feat, and it is a testament to the show’s overall smoothness that those seconds stand out at all. I expect the show to pick up steam and momentum with every reading.

Tarot runs through 1 February.

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