views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Leicester Square Theatre
28th February 2013


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? A giant cigarette? Or giant tampon man? From the outset, as a bizarrely-costumed individual wanders about the auditorium waving, you know you're in for something a bit different. What exactly, you're not quite sure. But Siro-A certainly know how to win over a crowd. So it doesn't take long before the feeling of "What have I let myself in for?" dissipates and you find yourself enthusiastically cheering along to their unusual brand of entertainment.

Comparisons with The Blue Man Group are only helpful if you remember them from the IBM adverts at the start of the millennium, or the last time they staged a show in London - 5 years ago. For those of you whose memories don't stretch back that far, Siro-A is made up of six Japanese men, sound programmer Iwai Hiroyuki, video artist Sato Ryosuke and performers Daiki, Arai Toshiya, Abe Toshinori and Yohei. Their work can best be described as a beautifully planned mess of light and colour, with modern dance and physical comedy thrown in for good measure. They combine pre-recorded footage with live action, demonstrating nothing less than the perfect timing required to pull off this ambitious and heady combination.

The main auditorium of the Leicester Square Theatre may seem like an odd choice at first, given that room is generally more suited to live stand-up, but when you consider the use of lasers, it actually makes perfect sense. The seats aren't particularly graduated, which means when the performers zap out their magnificent displays, they don't blind the back few rows. If you have a restricted view from wherever you're sitting, it really won't spoil your enjoyment - there's enough noise and colour to go round.

One of our favourite sequences tells us about performer Toshinori's life, down to the last detail. The group manage to slip in a few London references here and we're suckers for a bit of London love. We won't elaborate because we don't want to spoil the humour, but also because the magic of that particular performance comes from its spontaneity. It's very funny in the moment, but sounds far less so when deconstructed and described.

In the mix of sketches of varying lengths - although all relatively brief - a quick game of Super Mario was a standout. But you never feel short-changed and, at an hour long, the group work hard and fast to pack as much in as possible. It's a well-judged length to hold your attention - if Siro A stretched it out a bit more, you might well go deaf. Quiet, this show is not.

We can see why the Edinburgh Fringe loved Siro-A, awarding them the highly-respected Mervyn Stutter's Spirit of the Fringe Award in 2011. They're quirky, fresh and family-friendly. With evening and matinee performances, this is something we would recommend both to those with children and those after a night out.

We're not sure this review really does Siro-A justice - talking about them is really difficult. You need to see them live to understand what the fuss is about - and whatever label you want to stick on what they do, we're sure you'll agree they're mesmerising and deeply entertaining.

Siro-A opened on 1st February and runs until 22nd April 2013.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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