BR-116 – a feast of journeys and events across London

Feature in Issue 23-4 | Winter 2011

Dorothy’s Shoes was commissioned to create a travelling interactive performance for London transport on the first full day of BR-116 (Wednesday 14 September) – a journey which began at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and led eventually to Trinity Buoy Wharf, taking in buses and bus stations, Tubes, the DLR, and an unexpectedly tranquil walkway and woods next to the river at East India Docks. Entitled Behind the Moon, Beyond the Rain, the piece was inspired by the live-in-the-moment ethos of Frank L Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, and set out to explore temporary friendship and the appreciation of what we’ve got – right here, right now– as we journey together. Referencing also numerous Grimms fairytales, the performance invited the audience to read and misread the city as a labyrinth of child’s play and fantasy with audience participation (both from those on the whole journey, and those picked up along the way!) including choral singing, paper-boat making, playing carnival dress-up at West Ham tube, picnicking, and partner dancing down an avenue of trees towards the O2 Dome (which was cast as a palace of dreams).

Brazilian artist Gustavo Ciriaco was commissioned by BR-116 to create Todo Onde, an audio performance for a journey by boat and DLR that would lead its audience from the South Bank to Trinity Buoy Wharf. The production, in contrast to Behind the Moon and RageWalksLondon, was characterised by absence, rather than presence – and was a piece that relied on an individual rather than collective experience. Performed/enacted by participants on Friday 16 September, those taking part experienced the journey accompanied by an audio file, which was created through the artist’s response to video material he had received of the proposed route. It told a narrative of what the artist had seen, leaving the audience to retrace the steps of his observations, in the absence of the happenings that were captured on the film he had seen.

The Selfish Banquet was a lunchtime event (held on Friday 16 September, before Gustavo Ciriaco’s performative journey) exploring how rituals of food sharing and idea sharing can be combined to create multi-levelled knowledge exchanges and encounters between artists, curators, educators, thinkers – embracing people from different professional and personal backgrounds. People taking part bring food to share, all of which is luxuriously heaped onto a main banquet table, then guests make themselves a plate of food and move from table to table, experiencing different discussion topics led by facilitators placed one to a table. Facilitators included Jorge Lopes Ramos, director of Zecora Ura and Jonathan Grieve, co-founder of Para Active; invited guests/roundtable speakers included Pippa Bailey (of Total Theatre Awards and Biding Time) and Rupert Thomson from the new Summerhall venue and arts project in Edinburgh.

On Saturday 17 November, there was more feasting to be had: this time in the company of Nomad Cafe who took their audience foraging along the Tidal Basin for wild foods, and then later that day for a picnic on a DLR train, eating foods found earlier, but also things prepared in advance using ingredients found or sourced from along the train route – a feast that included lavender biscuits, blackberry muffins, fruit-and-nut bread, and homemade elderberry ‘champagne’.

On the final night of the festival, two special commissions were presented: Flavio Rabelo’s Take-Away, in which the artist sits slumped on a pavement in a flowing gown and a mask that completely obscures his vision, carrying a helium-filled party balloon, inviting passers-by to take him away for a walk and talk – an exercise in trust and the sharing of confidences. Also set outdoors – but this time in a hidden garden rather than a public street – was a delicately beautiful piece by Olga Lamas called Sirva-se (‘Help yourself’). Inspired by a study of Virigina Woolf, the work is part of an ongoing research project by Olga Lamas, and takes the form of a night-garden tea party, an enchanting one-on-one encounter in which every gesture is enacted with measured calm. The evening also saw the culmination of Urias de Oliveira’s Dom Quixote Messenger Service, which used the capital’s ‘Boris Bikes’ to take messages across the city from one artist to another (starting with Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni of Complicite, who were performing at the Arcola Theatre that week).

BR-116 also embraced a week of nightly workshops by Brazilian companies Tannteatro and LUME (see our Worldview: Brazil feature elsewhere in this magazine for more on these companies), daytime film showings and seminars, and a cross-continent internet conference.

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Issue 23-4
p. 12