Review | ‘ARCANA: The Devil’s Temptation’ shuffles the deck

ARCANA: The Devil’s Temptation | Girls School | til Feb 13 | ★ ½ 

Under the iconic, neon pink sign of the Girls School, patrons lining up to see ARCANA at the Gold Digger had a ten-minute delay within the venue, which housed lifting floorboards (duct taped together, within an inch of their life), backless seating, and constant smoke billowing into the centre of the space effectively making it a smoke and mirrors show.

Despite an interesting concept, the technical execution of ARCANA was problematic. The show had mic-ing issues, lighting cues were clunky, choreography with each performance was unrehearsed, and audio changes were too abrupt – displacing the audience at the end of every segment.

For quite a few performers, their wardrobe reveals lacked finesse, and only a small portion were able to incorporate the janky transitions into their works – whilst the rest played them off awkwardly. Some performers, who were from the burlesque art form, did not seem to show any interest or engagement in their own work – which filtered into the crowd, who remained relatively quiet during the whole show.

A few times, the performers seemed to solely entertain the photographer, rather than the audience – engaging with their own content creation, than giving the people their money’s worth.

With expert and curated marketing in the lead up to the production, the audience had a sense that the storyline was inspired by Rider Waite’s tarot … and wait they did, for any clarification. Every performer had an assigned Major Arcana with their act, but it was not until the emcee acknowledged them did any connection occur. Whilst each performance – which spanned contemporary dance, avant-garde storytelling, and burlesque – there was never enough delivery into the ARCANA’s “temptation” tag line.

The highlights of the show – the Minor Arcana, so to speak – were; the lead performance by Sam Madame, who commanded and engaged the audience as The Devil, providing the only scripted aspect of the show, with glitz, glam, and gams; Kitty Littéur, who’s light display as The Star was sensual, stunning, and her recoveries were comedic and well delivered; the dancing couple, who portrayed The Lovers, with a strong synchronised dance that showcased their strength and chemistry; Danisa Snake, who portrayed Death, as a snake coming out of their skin and becoming one with themselves; and the soundtrack.

Tonight’s performance just wasn’t in the cards, for ARCANA was hellish and sinful, just not in the way they intended.

ARCANA: The Devil’s Temptation is running at Girls School until February 13. For more info head to fringeworld.com.au

Joshua Hall Haines is an arts and entertainment writer with two BAs in Media & Communications and Arts Management from WAAPA. Joshua has worked in the film and television space as a producer and production designer — but always circles back to writing, having self-published a queer mystery novella in 2018. Joshua also freelances as a publicist, copywriter, and publisher. More of his work can be found @joshlhaines on Instagram
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