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Sounds and Sorcery – Celebrating Disney Fantasia review at the Vaults – ‘an ambient experience’

The cast of Sounds and Sorcery - Celebrating Disney Fantasia at the Vaults, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Fantasia, the third full-length feature to spring from the Walt Disney Studio, was a commercially daring piece for the company. Unlike the previous big hits Snow White and Pinocchio, the 1940 animated movie had no single narrative but consisted of eight shorts illustrating well-known classical music pieces.

Sounds and Sorcery is a new piece of immersive theatre designed to celebrate Disney Fantasia from director Daisy Evans, the founder of Silent Opera.

Participants are supplied with headphones and invited to wander through the Vaults and immerse themselves in the familiar music accompanied by a series of specially designed performance pieces, light shows, video projection and other technical wizardry.

The problem is that the experience never quite matches the majesty of the music nor the whimsy of the Disney animation. There are enchanting glades of cleverly lit trees and babbling brooks where pastoral fairies might gambol but the audio is far from perfect, rendering many of the recordings from the Prague Philharmonic grainy and unsatisfactory.

Kids might find the dark moments scary, although Night on Bald Mountain really doesn’t live up to the hype. There’s something so ambient about Sounds and Sorcery, that at times, it feels more like a theme bar, complete with a selection of chill-out zones, than a piece of theatre.

Kitty Callister’s designs pay homage to the original movie and there are some cute set pieces, such as the Frost Fairies of the Nutcracker Suite. The clowning antics of a re-imagined Dance of the Hours never quite satisfies and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, arguably the best known scene from the movie, features less water than your average panto slosh scene.

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Ambient immersive musical experience that never captures the magic of the source material