Combining theatre and circus is a tricky business: even the most impressive of acrobatic displays tend to detract from, rather than add to, the thrust of a show's narrative. Some tales lend themselves better to physical storytelling than others, of course, and the Paper Doll Militia, the company behind This Twisted Tale, have borne this in mind, opting for a piece about the power of play and imagination with a little girl as the central character.
The show uses puppetry and aerial circus performance to tell the story of Chloe, a lonely child who finds herself visited by a bizarre incarnation of the devil. The idea, although odd, is not a bad one: there is a real playfulness in the use of acrobatics that suits the subject matter. The problem is with the execution of the piece, which feels forced throughout and is full of unnecessary and inappropriately vulgar moments. It's as if the company, having chosen to put the experiences of a child at the heart of the show, panicked that the end result would not be "adult" enough, and peppered it with swear words and sexual references to balance things out. This ploy ultimately fails, resulting in a show that is genuinely embarrassing to watch at points.
With too little commitment to the story to succeed as theatre and too little circus to distract from the lack of plot, This Twisted Tale falls between two stools, leaving the audience dissatisfied and perplexed.