Theatre Review: Trapeze, Silk Suspension, and Fruit—Dust Palace Brings it All.

An Eerie Circus Retelling of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

  • Eve Gordon onstage for goblin Market. Courtesy Jennifer Renault

Folks shuffled into the dimly lit room of Centaur Theatre for a circus-theatre retelling of the poem “Goblin Market.” They take their seats and wait in anticipation.

On Sept. 28, New Zealand based circus-theatre troupe, The Dust Palace, put on a rendition of Christina Rossetti’s well-known Victorian-era poem. While I waited for the show to begin, I wondered how a poem could provide enough substance to create an entire show.

As the theatre seats were being filled, a shirtless man in beige tights walked around, slapping himself with a banana while making guttural sex sounds. A lady wearing a grim masquerade mask slowly used her finger to trace the pit of an avocado while making intense eye contact with the audience.

I laughed at this scene until her eyes found mine and I sank into my seat, uncomfortable by how I was slightly turned on. Meanwhile, the shirtless man mischievously held up a melon. “Le Melon? Le Melon!” he exclaimed while shoving his fingers deep into it.

And then, the real show began. For 80 minutes, three performers entertained as they performed breathtaking movements using silk suspensions, trapezes, and aerial hoops.

Every act in this show was a unique scene. Some were innocent and childlike, others bizarre, but most were hauntingly beautiful. Centaur theatre, a gem tucked away in Old Port, proved to be the perfect venue for acrobatic shadows that danced on the walls, providing a hypnotizing and surreal effect.

Edward Clendon River onstage for Goblin Market. Courtesy Jennifer Renault

Beyond the gravity-defying circus acts, Dust Palace used different elements that made for extravagant storytelling, such as film and spoken word. A projector played bits of the poem in Victorian text as a backdrop, its grittiness sucking me into a gothic dream-like world.

“Goblin Market” is a story of two sisters who fall for the same devilishly handsome goblin man, not knowing that the fruit he sells is highly addictive.

The performance highlighted the power of sisterhood through themes of temptation, sacrifice, and of course some minor nudity.

The highlight of the show was when two performers did an insane acro-yoga act without using any equipment besides their finely muscled bodies. I was unable to blink for the duration of the act, in awe of how much practice and discipline it must have taken to achieve such feats.

Not only were they highly trained performers, but talented actors as well. At one point, I was moved to tears when the older sister shared a chilling spoken word piece.

“You will lose everything attempting to play savior,” she defiantly told the audience. Her own tears and raw vulnerability had me convinced that had she penned the poem herself.

Through mind and body, Dust Palace took me on a visceral emotional journey. This wasn’t the first time they’ve visited Montreal and hopefully it will not be the last.

Dust Palace // Goblin Market // Centaur Theatre (453 Saint-Francois-Xavier)

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