Brighton Festival 2014
Tangled Feet champions the potential within British youth culture, through this large-scale production, incorporating spectacular choreography, pyrotechnics, live music and involving a community cast of local young people. It’s loud, it’s proud and well worth seeing.
The show acknowledges the fact that there are 1 million unemployed people under the age of 25 in this country and celebrates their untapped potential. One of the strengths of the piece is the large number of young community cast members, who get in amongst the audience and infuse the site with an atmosphere of energy and enthusiasm.
The show starts with performers dotted about the audience on satellite platforms, balancing on the structures and calling out in support to each other. This is the youth, just out of college, starting to climb the career ladder – a precarious situation at any event, let alone a time of economic insecurity. But while their route is hard and competition fierce, the message remains positive – young people present a positive force for hope in a challenging world. They are tireless in their pursuit of employment and assured that they can make a difference. They put on their ties, gird themselves for gruelling interviews, take the rejections, pick themselves up and try again, on the assumption that eventually they will get a foot in the door. Words like ambition and initiative are shot out into the night, and the performers shout and scream and dance.
The impressive set is reminiscent of Lyubov Popova’s Soviet constructivist designs of the 1920s – employing large structures with ladders and steps and pulleys and with a suggestion of wheels and cogs. Particularly evocative was the way in which a long line of performers ascended two large staircases to post their job applications. These cascade into a void and are blown up into the air and out over the site. Despite getting no response, the young people join the back of the queue to repeat the action again and again. However, while this and other set pieces providesome striking imagery and emotive ideas, many of these animated images continue without development for quite a long time, with the result that the dynamic becomes stilted at times.
Nevertheless, the energy is revived by the confident performances of a live band, playing music by Guy Connelly and Nick Gill. The musicians are located in the tower at the centre of the stage, at one moment using the scaffolding for it’s percussive qualities. The band are so good and their effect on the performance so integral, that I would have liked to have been able to see them better, as they are rather obscured by the structure and rarely highlighted with lighting.
At the crescendo of the show, as the pyrotechnics shower about us, we are encouraged to live our lives to the full, to do things your own way and to join the performers dancing in the street. It didn’t quite have the desired effect on me. However, it was joyful to watch the local participants performing with such commitment and clearly relishing the experience. I’m sure that it will have a long lasting impression on them, which is a fundamental part of a project like this.