By Stu Mayhew
After yesterday’s whale and all the publicity it generated, today was the official start of the festival. I was advised to be by The Cutty Sark, Greenwich’s greatest landmark, at 5.45PM. While there were plenty of people around I couldn’t see any actual performers. Suddenly some hollering rose up from the crowd and bingo – a 60 strong ‘flash mob’ dance troupe appeared and began bustin’ some moves right next to the old ship. A crowd quickly gathered armed with smiles and smartphones to film the dancers, then as quickly as it began it ended and they dispersed back into the crowd leaving everyone asking “what just happened”. Great fun.
My next stop involved a trip through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which links under the Thames to Island Gardens, which this year is being used as another venue for GDIF performances. It’s a beautiful little park with spectacular view back across the Thames to The Royal Naval College.
I was there for the performance of The Limbless Knight- A Tale Of Rights Reignited. Graeae and Strange Fruit who put this piece on are long friends of GDIF and their shows are always fun and quirky but always make you think. This was no exception as performers integrated aerial and sway pole choreography to tell a story based on human rights and well worth the short walk through the tunnel.
group of dancers mixed old school Charleston and Lindy Hop moves with some ‘old skool’ breakdancing, with a liberal dash of fire thrown in to. Based in a 1920’s Prohibition Speakeasy these guys sure know how to dance! A great response from the large crowd who really appreciated 40minutes show.
Lastly, and by no means least, it was off the the grounds of the National Maritime Museum for the official Greenwich+Docklands International Festival opener – As The World Tipped. To be honest I was a little worried about this show, let me tell you why. Last year in the same venue saw Prometheus, truly one of the most spectacular pieces of theatre I have ever seen. I didn’t think that it could ever be equalled in its sheer scale and drama. It was now close to 10PM with the moon emerging through the broken cloud behind the stage, an ominous sign if ever there was one! With a really large crowd, well over 1000 probably more, I used the power of my blue GDIF photographer jacket to take up a prime spot front and centre of the stage.
We hear a list of animals that are threatened with extinction due to climate change read out while piles of paperwork mount up on a desk on stage. As the paperwork mounts the stage slowly begins to tip and tables, chairs and performers slide off the edge! As the stage tips vertically the performers scramble to the top and cling on as the whole 12m stage is hoisted high into the night sky. About now my fears about the shadow of Prometheus were long gone as the actors performed a stunning bungee assisted aerial dance. As well as packing a visual punch the issue of climate change is at the forefront here and this performance really does make you think. The scale of it has to be seen to be believed so I urge everyone to get down for Saturday nights performance. So, I was up until 2.30am editing some of my 800 images so I can clear my memory cards for Saturday’s Greenwich Fair – see you there!!!