451 at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Now over for 2015, this year’s Greenwich and Docklands International Festival featured a fully immersive interactive piece called 451.

Based on the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the Periplum created performance was performed in Bethnal Green Gardens on Saturday the 27th of June.

451 focuses a number of citizens who are rebelling against the state sponsored destruction of literature, and on the fireman Montag, a initially loyal citizen who is employed to burn books.

Citizens are hunted, captured, electrocuted, shot at and burned alive in their quest for the right to read. Montag begins to question the status quo and we follow him as he tries to break free from his regimented existence.

2b

………

I applied to be a volunteer at this year’s festival, and when my role allocation came through I was on the list as a performance assistant for 451. I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for but I was excited to be part of a performance that wasn’t singing related.

The ten strong team met on the Friday before the performance for a five hour rehearsal with the actors and performers. We blocked through the whole show a number of times before a dress rehearsal at 10pm. We did the same on Saturday prior to the show.

The performance assistants had a two-fold role, we needed to protect the audience from the fast moving segways that ran through the audience, but also had to play balaclava wearing fireman who blew whistles repeatedly and had to encourage the audience to burn books!

We also silently and slightly creepily gave out pages of banned booked to the audience as they arrived as part of the pre-show. Trying to stay stern faced whilst lots of polite English people said “thank you very much” was a fun experience.

It was quite a lot to learn over the two rehearsal periods, but the joint effort of ten seemed to pull everyone in the right direction at the right time. A nerve-wracking experience, but definitely one where it kept the group on our toes – ideal for a evening performance with frame throwers and bombs exploding all around!

The actual performance was quite intense and it was over far quicker than I expected. It was very exhilarating and it was really fun to work together on something so dramatic with a group of strangers I had only met the day before. I would definitely do it again, and thank you very much to Periplum for making us feel so welcome and fully part of the team.

………

As usual I dragged the husband to the show, here are a few of his scary and enchanting videos of the evening:


A fiddle solo starts the main show


On the hunt for rebellious citizens


Don’t forget to tweet and betray your fellow humans!

A stunningly beautiful end: not an overthrow of the government, but a statement on keeping burnt books alive with oral tradition – a role reversal from the time before the printing press.

………

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *