Review: Sideshow (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Streaming this month on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s Assembly Showcatcher platform, No Hay Banda’s Sideshow is an hour long piece from Canada which can best be described as absurdist musical theatre.

“Based on the dark sideshows of Coney Island’s amusement parks in the early part of the 20th century, Steven Kazuo Takasugi’s Sideshow is a work of music theatre framed in a chamber music performance suggesting a circus sideshow (freak show). “

“The work is a meditation on virtuosity, freak shows, entertainment, spectacle, business and the sacrifices one makes to survive in the world. A cycle of six aphorisms by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus (1874-1936) is embedded as a subtext running through the work.”

What does “No Hay Banda” mean? Its literal English translation is “there is no band”, which fits with the avant garde nature of this piece, where the eight musicians act as clown, freak, curiosity, and evoke the sounds of those paraded in the sideshows of Coney Island. There are moments where we wish to look away from what we are watching, but we also know we are being watched.

Promotional image for Sideshow

This is music as theatre but not ‘musical theatre’. It requires knowledge, context and patience to make it through the 75 minutes. The utilisation of Kraus’s (a noted political satirist in Germany between the wars) aphorisms gives this performance an additional sheen of strangeness, but they are lost within the silences, staccato movements, and general strangeness.

The musicians comprise Jeffrey Stonehouse, flute; Lori Freedman, clarinet; Geneviève D’Ortnu, saxophone; Geneviève Liboiron, violin; Jean Rene, viola; Émilie Girard-Charest, cello; Daniel Áñez, piano; Noam Bierstone, percussion/vocals.

No Hay Banda‘s mission statement explains their use of avant garde music to broaden and challenge their audience; based in Montreal, they were founded in 2016 by Daniel Áñez, Noam Bierstone and Geneviève Liboiron.

Fringe rating: ***

This concert, like their regular programme, was performed at La Sala Rossa, and filmed in 2019. It can be streamed on demand in the Edinburgh Fringe until the end of August – book your ticket here.