Mouth of Hell Opens in the East End

Depart is an immersive Theatre experience performed in Tower Hamlets Cemetery park by the internationally renowned Circus company Circa.

Subtly tapping into the otherworldly nature that comes alive in any theatrical space, the suspension of social difference and identity with the proximity to performers fascinates and unnerves.

Depart is inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus gave the ancient Greeks their funerary rituals. These where inspired by the the loss of his beloved Eurydice, who was bitten on the ankle by a snake. Now only a fragmentary collection of these songs and rites have survived the ages.

As the the audience is ushered on through the threshold of dusk into the thick of the cemetery park. A wise warning in an invocation of Orpheus’s mistake, is given to not look back. Throughout the event we keep on looking back. Carefully treading a path into the underworld the darkness takes on a physical, spatial association.

A Shade, the name of the underworlds denizens, in this case playful, mischievous sprite like, shoots through the column randomly abducting members of the public, as they work their way down the paths.

As progress is made, it’s as if the shape of life broken has been broken in two with it’s contents are spilt out. Dramas that wish not be relinquished, gestures filled pathos beautifully communicated through silent acting.

To great effect, emotional and dramatic truth is unfettered by clumsy narratives. The effect is the sense we have witnessed a great many lives reenacting their pasts in the attempt recover their desires… or the inability to reconcile and make peace with life.

This is accompanied by the aural atmosphere created by the electronic musician Lapalux and an uncanny cappella choir covered black funeral veils. The success of this beautiful of singing, is how we wrestle with who the the singers are , the emotional barrier between the fictive and a real they touch and the sense that the dignity they bare would be the same we would be greeted with at our own death.

As we move on, different scenarios play out of lovers separated and hoped for reuniting… the burnt passion of unrequited love or crimes of passion or simply the yearning to fill the full spring of life.

At times it feels as though, some of the spirits are a number of the creatures that inhabit the underworld, some being fairy like or having changed in their nature from the hundreds of years left with the anguish driven narcissism and repetition.

High up in the trees, trapeze and rope artists, fly, or make shapes moving up and down on convectional currents of the will (unaware of the infinity of the nowhere and everywhere they are in), the different levels of the underworld. Then the movements uncannily stop and the figures pause, all animation gone and they hang… echoing in eternity, in hung, lynched, suicides, victims of torture or simply catatonic.

It’s an incredibly rich experience, where you do find yourself stopping looking back, just as Orpheus did. At risk of losing your group, until a guide hushedly beckons you to not lose the group.

Particular highlights include the death defying Chinese pole duo and the final promenade an acrobatics piece that involves the whole ensemble.

The Chinese pole duo, pair of performers on the pole, swing in, out, and between each other. There are precisely timed falls, one moving his head or his body as the other falls down the pole, to miss by a hair’s breadth.

Syncopated — worryingly like doppelgangers- is one the double of the other, an echo or his own desires unwilling to be unbound from the soul, a clone of the will still clinging on to the soul, or a more sinister entity suffocating-influencing. The performance seemed to willfully gesture that the dead are no wiser than the living… they simply can not give up.

In the Promenade, is so close to the extraordinary expressions of flight, paralleling a celebration and as a close as possible to realize a libertion from the limitations of the physical form. Lives seem like extraordinary and rare dancing flames.

You sense the fragility and the vitality necessary to keep form, as a performer trembling, supports their colleague standing on their shoulders.

Reverberations of life, cycles, patterns, gestures, the pleasure of embodying actions, fling in the body, and the pleasure of people watching.

It’s a evening out filled with wonder, and reflection. While the sensorial hits your from all directions. It engages much like hunting or foraging in the wild. The pubic may have to be generous and make allowances for quickness which they pass through each performance. Yet I felt this added to the sense loss and fugacious quality of the night. Assuming that by necessity there had to be an improvised and broad brush stroke strategy in place.

Throughout I wished to disregard the organizers warning, to turn back and return to Depart. I’m eager to see how and where the show will manifest again. TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERY Pf ARK
16–26 JUNE AT 9PM

Performances: 16–19 & 23–26 June
Tickets: £5 — £20
Full price: £20
Concessions: £15 (Jobseekers and under 16s)

A limited number of £5 standby tickets will be available to book 2 hours before the performance. Booking fees may apply.


Depart is co-commissioned by LIFT, National Centre for Circus Arts, Spitalfields Music, Hull UK City of Culture 2017, LeftCoast and Brighton Festival.

Depart is supported by Arts Council England and London Borough of Tower Hamlets. An Urban Heat project supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.