NB: This is my review of Siro-A’s 2013 show. If you’re looking for their 2014/2015 show, click here.
‘Virtual Reality’ noun. A computer-generated environment that, to the person experiencing it, closely resembles reality. – www.collinsdictionary.com Forget everything you thought about ‘virtual reality’ and prepare yourself for something far more extraordinary. Japanese group SIRO-A bring their ground-breaking show to London. Mixing live performance with 3D projections, techno music, dance, lasers, shadow-play, and traditional magic, the result is an enthralling and exhilarating hour-long assault on your senses.
Projection in theatre is nothing new, and those familiar with the work of Complicite will have already been wowed by such innovations. But SIRO-A raises the bar to an all new level that won’t fail to awe even the most hardy theatre buffs. And even if it manages to somehow unimpressed you’ve got to admire the tireless robotic precision it takes to execute such a show – SIRO-A are more akin to androids than men.
But this isn’t ‘virtual reality’, this is ‘virtual hyper-reality’. The group perform playing with and manipulating set and projected image that blur the boundaries between life and technology to the point where they’re almost indistinguishable – it’s like someone has dropped a tablet of acid between two Telsa Coils and you’ve subsequently woken up inside the internet. There are moments where life and image are one and the same and it’s impossible to tell them apart. Is that hole projected or a real one? Is that a performer or a video bursting through the screen? Confusion is gloriously rife.
The hour long spectacle absolutely flies by and nothing drags. Whilst it’s the group’s visual innovations that drive it, it’s also propelled by hypnotic video animation and thumping techno music. Also, there is also a good dollop of playful humour that really augments the show and varies the pacing. If this was a full-on serious affair no matter how bedazzling the gimmicks are there’s too much potential for it to become stale. But you end up chuckling just as much as you sit there with your mouth agape.
The show is pristine and faultless. However, unfortunately the same can’t be said about the venue. The problem with the Leicester Square Theatre is that it’s absence of raking means it’s a little irritating to have to crane your neck around any person above average height who you have the misfortune to be sat behind. Also, being so close up means it’s easier to spot the tiny give-away flaws that are unavoidable in such a technically demanding production. A quick search on YouTube and you’ll find that they’ve played much larger venues and the show is just as impressive, if not more so. But the inadequacies of the theatre are not so much of a burden to bear that it should stop anyone from seeing the show as it’s still utterly brilliant.
Overall SIRO-A is literally unbelievable. A magic show for the twenty-second century that’s unfathomably astonishing.
SIRO-A plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC1H 7BX, until 22 April 2013. Tickets are £17.00 (concessions available). To book, visit www.siro-a.co.uk.