DAO editor Colin Hambrook reviews Graeae's spectacular Prometheus Awakes event which opened the Greenwich+Docklands Festival at 10pm on 22 June.
Two and half years in the making, Prometheus represents the biggest and best outside arts piece Graeae Theatre Company have pulled off. Prometheus will surely put them on the landscape as one of the UK's key producers of large-scale projects.
In comparison with last year's production of Iron Man and the previous year's Against the Tide, it is clear that Graeae have raised their ambitions and are taking risks like never before.
And boy were they lucky! With weather conditions that meant no full rehearsal could take place in situ. Co-directors Amit Sharma and Pera Tantina from La Fura dels Baus clearly had a hotline to God at the appointed time, with dramatic red skies and oceanic cloudscapes setting the scene, as somewhere in the region of 5000 people settled down within the grounds of the Queen’s House, next to Greenwich Maritime Museum, to enjoy Prometheus Awakes.
Spectacular aerial work using cranes seems to be the flavour of outside arts spectacle at t the moment. At one point in this production, 42 volunteer performers are suspended high above the audience in a dance routine, backed by pulsing music, light and fire.
Using the Queen’s House and surrounding buildings as a canvas for Simon Mckeown's magical digitial art projections was inspired. As the palette of light projections changed, so did the hue of the sky itself.
The animated projections play out a range of dramas, moving from spring growth to winter, and from fire to ice. Similiarly the projections of the performers' huge shadows and of an enormous human hamster wheel against the grand white building created more stunning effects.
The massive figure of Prometheus is moved around the arena, manipulated by a myriad of performers who turn the monolith into a puppet. The translucent figure is lit seemingly from inside. Our daughter (aged nine) said she thought he looked like he needed a big hug with his arms outstretched.
A strength Graeae could do well to capitalise upon would be the development of their audio-descriptive services. We’ve said for a long time that audio-description should be creative – and as such, something that could be enjoyed by all.
Liz said it was possibly the best audio-description she’s heard Graeae provide. Not only did it signpost relevant information but it was delivered in a poetical style so that the language worked with the fantastical visual projections and the action which took place as part of them.
It would have been very difficult for any visually impaired person to have attended this performance on their own. Sadly only three visually impaired people experienced the event on Friday. Two sighted people who used the description agreed that it provided another layer, roughly sketching the intentions behind the storyline and the characters central to the piece.
Having recently seen two large-scale outside arts in Brighton Festival – with No Fit State’s Barricade and Générik Vapeur’s‘Waterlitz, both productions would have been enhanced by an audio narrative.
Extant have been leading the way with productions like Sheer. We’d urge producers and outside arts companies to explore and play with language, which could easily incorporate what would be needed for audio-descriptive purposes.
Graeae are producing a second outing of Prometheus Awakes at the Stockton International Riverside Festival 2012 on 2 August at 10pm
Video of Prometheus Awakes courtesy of WinkBall.com