Radiator, Dreams and Demons / IOU, Tattoo

Review in Issue 15-2 | Summer 2003

I’m placing these together as they were seen consecutively on the same evening – but also because they shared some of the same strengths and faults and, although very different, highlighted some of the inherent problems with visual street arts.

Radiator first: Dreams and Demons was a surreal fairground, perfectly placed in the quadrant garden of University of Brighton. This young company created a fascinating total environment of sideshows, extraordinary constructions and gloriously costumed creatures. It was a wonderful idea; a strong scenography well executed. The only question was: who’s holding the space? Company mentor Simon Pascoe (of Red Earth) did an admirable job as Showman, but what will happen when his role finishes? The piece ideally needs three or four strong characters to guide the audience around and to give shape to the as-yet-underdeveloped dramatic structure. I’d suggest that Radiator put in a funding application to work with a physical theatre company – in the manner of the World Famous and Peepolykus collaboration that created last summer’s successful Blast! – and who knows, they may yet conquer the world.

IOU have a great deal more experience at this sort of thing – and that experience does show in their new work Tattoo – but it wasn’t a faultless production. Again, the setting was good – right next to Brighton station, the dark shapes and clanks and screeches of the goods trains merging well with the company’s moody late-night visual scenario. This large-scale promenade performance could best be described as a John Wyndham nature-turns-nasty scenario meets Heath Robinson. An enormous Jellyfish pod squirts foam; giant mechanical creatures with flashing lights for eyes come lumbering noisily through the crowd and teams of demented oversized insects march in formation.

There is little in the way of narrative, but there is a climax to the event as all elements gather together in cacophonous disharmony, the human-size bees using the largest mechanical creature to extract huge wobbly eggs from the pod – the stuff of nightmares!

My reservations were again based around the worry that the audience seemed for the most part left to sort themselves out. Maybe I’m being churlish – after all, when I saw Fura dels Baus in an East-End warehouse in the 1980s I’m sure I didn’t whinge about having to scuttle around in the dark while weird things happened over yonder. This was an event where for the most part, you had to create your own theatrical experience, with little guidance from the artists, but which was, if you made the effort, a rich and rewarding experience.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Date Seen
  1. May 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-2
p. 25