Till Death Do Us Part

“So…let me get this right….you’re spending your Friday night in a cemetery?”

Being the talk of the office, the exchange of confused and deadpan faces awaited my delayed “only joking” laughter. I nodded, failing to understand the problem. Expecting a twenty-something to party hard, I guess the cemetery is the nightclub for the dead, but they chose to ignore my reasoning for the unexpected visit.

Haunting sights and sounds will seduce you down a path punctuated by unexpected encounters as you weave through the space between life and death in this East End cemetery…

Led by Yaron Lifschitz with his internationally acclaimed company, Circa and with a creative team including the electronic musician Lapalux, this ethereal collaboration brings circus artists, choral singers, designers and musicians together for a summer night full of surprises.

Wandering like lost souls, Depart explored the beauty of the afterlife. Every performer became a guardian angel, entertaining and directing you through the paths of paradise. The fairy lights flickered with death wishes as the dancers had one foot (or two feet) in the grave. Every performance, dance move and musical note possessed such grace and respect for its location. With no Grim Reaper in sight, Depart was a visually stunning celebration of collaborative talent.

Gifted with coloured wristbands, the audience were separated and the coloured smoke signalled your entry point. Holding a lantern, the guide silently walked into the cemetery, encouraging us to trust in him for our safe return. Guarded by overgrown bushes and tree canopies, we entered the darkness on mute, exchanging curious glances and bared teeth.

DEPART Circa Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
Depart at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

I want them to be moved and surprised that a place so otherworldly and peaceful can exist in the heart of London. I want them to witness, some perhaps for the first time, the lengths and depths that circus can reach. I want the hair to stand up on the back of their necks. I want their noses to tingle and their hearts to beat faster. I want them to question what their eyes and ears are telling them. And I want them to head back on to the Mile End Road at the end of the night having spent a few hours or so in our wonderful circus world where it would seem that, almost anything is possible and crazy ideas can, in the end, become reality.
Daisy Drury – Director of Circus Development at NCCA

Hay fever or an emotional overload, my eyes were having wet dreams over Depart’s creative vision. As a hidden fantasy, the acrobatics hypnotised and sensationalised the living and breathing human body. The performances from Circa and the National Centre for Circus Arts displayed the core strength and composed extension of limbs, which fascinated and glorified this deathly silent space.

Dangling from trees or spinning around in a giant hula hoop, their routines expressed the brutal force of life and death. Without permission to applaud, we remained submissive as the enchanting whispers ordered us to hurry on. Let nature take its course…

DEPART Circa Photo Credit Tristram Kenton
Depart at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

The haunting melodies from Spitalfields Music and Depart’s singers spooked yet soothed the racing heart. Their hymns of loss, faith and grief echoed off the beaten tracks as our boots squelched and raincoats grazed against the wild branches. Dressed with black veils, the singers phantomized the weeping widows amongst the gravestones and harmonised their last dying breath. With stolen glances, we were ushered to next viewing platform of performance.

Walking past the holograms of dancing women and roses projected onto gravestones, these heavenly displays halted our adventure at every turn. Only darkness comforted us at times, but the gravestones beckoned us to explore further and walk faster towards the white light. It was time to meet our maker.

DEPART Circa Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
Depart at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

Drifting backwards and forwards on an elevated stage, the performers executed Depart’s finale with a spectacular chop of talent. The barrage of performers leaped, danced, lifted, walked on heads, spun, flipped, hurled, swung each other in midair, catapulted, balanced, pushed from left to right. They were literally fighting for their lives. This hypnotic representation of the departure lounge, where the human soul battles to remain in the body, rang true to my near death experience. The limbs locking up life, jolting the surge of death and surrendering to the force above.

Forgetting the stereotypical horror film locations, cemeteries provide some comfort to those relatives or friends. After knocking on heaven’s door, cemeteries are the keepsakes of our abandoned shells. Engraved loving words mark our identities over our treasured bones. As a spiritually moving space, the wonderwall of silence blankets our footsteps and arrests us for simply living. Thanks to this experience, Depart has triumphed and conjured the beautifully visual meaning towards these very words: “Till death do us part”.

Team Photo at Rehearsals. Photo Credit: Cathy Buckmaster

Book your tickets for Depart here. Ends 26 June.

Big thanks to Hannah from The Corner Shop.


6 thoughts on “Till Death Do Us Part

  1. I like the idea of “permission to applaud” – Yaron is very vocal about his disapproval of applause in his shows till the end. What constitutes, do you think, permission to applaud? Applause is a really big thing in circus history – much more so than in theatre. I think it’s really interesting and cool now that you can watch circus and be enthralled – but not feel the need to applaud each trick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Rebekah! Yes – staying silent throughout the performance was probably one of the hardest things, but was absolutely beautiful and inspiring. I think the applause is a sign of appreciation and confirms “Wow! You were great”, but the performer doesn’t need this validation. An audience member tried to clap after watching one of the performances, but he immediately stopped as he noticed our silence – interesting! I guess it’s our freedom to express. In Depart’s case, the silence was totally needed and immersed you into the haunting adventure. Personally, I loved it and the audience were silent too (don’t get that with the theatre audience these days!)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. You really do have an interesting nightlife Emma! I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like this. How unusual and atmospheric. It must have been a real conversation starter after it ended, even if you had to be silent throughout.


  3. What an amazing experience Emma! My daughter would love it, what a shame we won’t be able to get to London before it ends. I’ve never heard of anything like it. I can just imagine the look on your friends’ faces when you told them where you were spending your Friday night! Your writing is beautiful, so lyrical…it draws me in from start to finish. Just beautiful. Thank you ❤


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