The Giants Arrive: A Fairytale for Berlin

Review in Issue 22-1 | Spring 2010

Lucy Frost sees Royal de Luxe mark the fall of the wall.

In October 2009 Royal de Luxe helped the population of Berlin celebrate the 2oth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a new theatre spectacle, The Giants Arrive: A Fairytale for Berlin. The puppets themselves have been seen across the world, from Barcelona to Reykjavik to London, in previous performances Le Géant Tombé du Ciel and The Sultan’s Elephant. But even though the characters and some of their actions have been seen elsewhere I would suggest that their work has never been so relevant to a city or celebration.

Tag der Deutschen Einheit (the day of German unity) is celebrated 3 October, the day when East and West Germany were formally reunited. Royal de Luxe created the story of a niece (the little giantess) and her uncle (the diver) who spent two days travelling independently through the city, finally meeting at Brandenburg Gate for a heartfelt reunion. The little giantess was lifted over the Gate by two cranes, aided by a daring member of the Royal de Luxe team (who manipulate the puppets and are known as Lilliputians). Tears were brought to the spectators’ eyes, not only for the visual beauty of the moment, but the way that it resonated with their own experiences. The giantess was put to sleep at night in a deck chair, animated in every detail, from the sound of breathing to the rise and fall of her chest.

For a performance on such a large scale the sense of intimacy was incredible: between audience and giant, audience and Lilliputian, and finally audience member and audience member. Tessa Jowell talked about this feeling of a shared experience in her description of The Sultan’s Elephant in London 2006: ‘Everyone felt a sense of kinship and connectedness. Part of a single life changing experience. And all in a single city.’ How much more poignant that thought is when the city is Berlin.

The arrival of the giants was something that took over the whole city. The company left visual clues such as a giant anchor by Pariser Platz, but for the most part the vast crowds and media coverage meant that the residents of Berlin were engaging with the performance without even seeing the giants themselves. It became the talking point of the city.

I was intrigued to discover how well local people felt the performance represented their stories. When I discussed this with fellow audience members one family described it as an unusually creative response to the theme of German unity, saying: ‘The French are artists, creatives, and for them to show such an interest in our story is an honour.’

Seeing Royal de Luxe’s performance in Berlin has enriched my own understanding of the division and reunion of a country. The excitement over that weekend was electric – one could sense it in the air.

I now feel I am part of a larger community of people who were there. Fellow onlooker Bianka Kaver confirmed that for her it was ‘a once in a lifetime experience’.

We embraced the almost wintry air on the streets of Berlin in the spirit of togetherness. We shared stories of the giants. We exclaimed at their enormity together. Out loud. In ways one would be embarrassed to in ‘real life’. Older generations explained to younger ones the narrative of uncle and niece. There were often tears in our eyes and goose-bumps on our skin. For the German population who had experienced the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall it acknowledged and highlighted their stories, personal tragedies and the return of their freedom.

Royal de Luxe’s The Giants Arrive: A Fairytale for Berlin took place in the city 1 – 4 Oct 2009.

Presenting Artists
Date Seen
  1. Oct 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 22-1
p. 36