Brighton Fringe 2008
Venue: Wild Park, Moulsecombe
Festival: Brighton Fringe
A site-specific wonder from Periplum theatre. Part of the main Brighton Festival.
There was a collective sense of trepidation amongst the audience at Wild Park. A huge crowd had assembled to watch Periplum Theatre’s site-specific production, The Bell. When the lights raised on a singer atop a podium projecting melancholy operatics into the night as hooded figures with torches moved down the slope the mystery continued to abound. This performance had a simple, fable-like narrative. It was a poetic rendering concerning war, peace, leadership and the nature of society that had more in common with a religious ritual than conventional theatre. If it sounds a little pretentious, this was more than outweighed by the direct and confrontational nature of the performance style.
The early battle sequence was particularly terrifying. The visceral quality of the performance with the company of actors, some mounted on stilts, moving through the audience turned the crowd into a war zone. It meant that you couldn’t help but become involved, every sense became enlivened. I found my heart pounding; smoke filling my nostrils and the blinding light from pyrotechnics drawing my gaze. The way that the crowds channeled through the darkness like an amorphous mass filling you with the sense that you were part of something bigger than yourself was captivating. This coupled with blue floodlights casting eerie silhouettes on the tree line made for a unique atmosphere.
When "The Bell" finally arrived at the climactic point, radiating heat and light it was clear to all present that something special had taken place.
This company pushes theatre in bold new directions with such scale and ambition. Breathtaking.