The Greenwich and Dockland Festival is the highlight of London’s extensive event calendar. Having missed it for three years, I was especially happy to be able to attend it this year.
The festival is an outdoor performance festival that goes on for ten days during which you will be treated to theatre, dancing, singing, play times, jubilations and spectaculars, all outdoor and free of charge.
I will let the photos and video do most of the talking, but I just have to write a little about some of the highlights.
A troupe of circus artists perform aerial acrobatics suspended from an enormous crane-operated baby-mobile-eque contraption. The audience sat directly underneath this thing, watching the acrobats spin around, shine lights, spray water, release petals or send of fireworks. At times, they would be lowered to the ground (one of them literally landed on me) and then run around in a circle to spin themselves up before being hoisted back into the night sky.
In Birdwatching 4×4, you get put in this big box that is slowly driven around the streets. A one-way mirror shows you the outside world. Actors run around the box doing strange things outside, either alone or accosting the general public, all the while you are listening to disturbing music. It starts slowly with the actors just lying face down on the ground, then becomes more and more bizarre until they are stealing baby prams and crawling out of hot dog stands. Absolute gold.
A man with a huge pole (stop it) who only communicates through one weird barking noise managed to spellbind an audience as if we were all his puppets. He started off balancing the pole on his neck and finished by having four volunteers keep his pole erect (really) while he climbed up it (some would say ‘mount it’).
A large two-stories scaffolding is draped with a semi-transparent material on which they project a number of things, but most often, the façade of a house. This house is the locus of the story of a couple that moves in while in love, break apart and the growth and realisation of the young son of theirs. Strange, haunting and technically superb.
At times, they would let the action inside the house come through the semi-transparent material, as if you could see through the walls of the house. And, along the top of the ‘façade’ ran wires that could move all around the house and be raised or lowered, and attached to these wires were some of the actors, often showing you a from-the-top perspective of the action. Just amazing.
In ‘The Lift’ random people got taken from the audience and brought to different ‘floors’ where the lift attendance would subject them to randomly funny/embarrassing events. Brilliant comic genius. I got taken to Floor 9, where I became ‘The Pink Flamingo’, a secret agent who had to retrieve an emerald from ‘Black Stalk’.
I got strapped up in a Virtual Reality suit and got to walk through the rubble and debris after the tsunami in Japan. It was eerie to walk around Greenwich, and all around you is the complete and utter devastation of the tsunami.
This show moved me to tears. A man was in this little round cell, with blinds slowly opening and closing. For each time they opened, we saw this suited businessman becoming increasingly stressed out as his life spun out of control while being drained from meaning.
Outside the cell, a woman was looking at him, longingly, her every move slow and mournful. The man eventually burns out and in a final act of desperation, manages to break out.
The round cell is demolished, leaving only the frame, which is revealed to be perfectly round and ‘rollable’. The rest of the show is depicts the man’s rediscovering of life and love, guided each step by the woman.
I was never quite that man, but still I could sympathize. I wonder if I had eventually become him had I not left the bank to start this nomadic journey. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the emotions I read in this actor as he broke free and rediscovered the wider world, that I remember clearly from three years ago.
Colors de Monstre
This amazing Spanish man has handcrafted a small park full of wooden games. All kinds. All interactive. If your inner child is on life-support from lack of playtime, this is the hospital for you. You can stand on a wobbly board and guide a ball through a maze. Solve puzzles. Get a donkey over a bridge by supporting the bridge with wooden disks. Balance a set of wooden dolls on a disk suspended by a string. And much much more.