Perhaps unsurprisingly, for those who know a bit about the myth, Sirens is a show about voices and being voiceless, about language and story and who controls narratives. It’s a clever concept and a fitting one for a post-me-too Fringe, in which so many shows are shoehorning it in. And the two central premises are great: firstly, what would happen if some ancient Greek mythological figures came to the present day and saw how little had changed, and secondly, what if we solved the sirens’ curse by introducing them to someone who’s deaf?
But the first thing I need to talk about isn’t the content of the show at all: it’s access. Sirens and Zoo Co, the theatre company behind the show, both focus on making their theatre available to the maximum amount of people. It’s in the plot of the show, which features a brilliant power-training-montage of human Tobi teaching the three sirens BSL. The whole piece is captioned, and a lot of it is signed (a lot of it in BSL rather than spoken). However, the shows are tagged as ‘relaxed’ performances – a description that isn’t quite right. At the beginning of Sirens, performer Florence O’Mahoney says and signs to the audience that this is a relaxed performance – and the doors then shut, and the house lights went down. It was a lovely gesture, but not one that makes a relaxed performance
There were a few other problems with the piece’s desire to tick every box as well. Sirens kind of had it all – a plotline about one of them falling in love with a girl in an art gallery, another discovering her love for drag, and another trying to tease out the difference between loving someone because you love them, and because they’re there. And one about dealing with your boss assaulting you. Then that’s not to mention the central plot, about trying to destroy a book that could destroy their reputation, which falls down somewhat when you consider the number of books about sirens that actually exist.
This isn’t to say that Sirens is a failure at all. The show is beautiful and clever, with brilliant projection mapping and regular laughs (that don’t rely on laughing at other people). It’s unashamedly queer, without ever needing to justify it, and it’s uplifting and heartwarming despite the big issues it engages with. Sirens is a well-meaning show with a lot of potential – but sadly doesn’t quite live up to it.
Sirens is on at the Pleasance Courtyard until 27th August at 15.35. Tickets are £8.50 (£7.50 concessions) and available here.