Friday, May 18, 2012

reviews #wingsofdesire from Birmingham

For the past week there has been a small technological feast growing in central Birmingham. Victoria Square has been slowly taken over by flight cases, spotlights and portable staging. On paper, a 9.30pm piece of outdoor theatre might not sound good - yet having walked through the square for three days curiosity took the better of me. Last night I fought through exhaustion to experience "Wings of Desire".

The performance starts with Goldie (he of Celebrity Big Brother fame) welcoming us and explaining that 'angels only see the world in black and white'. After a few more heavily laden, scene setting words, the real action starts as the circus troup take to the stage and begin to dance (something!) out.

What evolves, through a mixture of dance, film and visuals is a representation of a personal struggle and strife to move from the angels world to that of the human. Why? because the angel had tasted love and wanted that again.
Overall the story was a simple one. Man meets girl and falls in love. What makes the piece come alive is the constant rotating of viewing opportunities and some outstanding physical moves.

The dancing and gymnastics was stunning. A highlight of the evening is a beautiful single piece where an individual in bright red does some stunning rope work suspended in-between the pillars of the old town hall. The same pillars later explode with some stunning visuals that show off technologies ability to create amazing mirages.

The let-down of the evening had to be the majority of the dialogue. Both on film and also on stage, the spoken words were too heavily laden and too sparse to be anything other than a distraction and interruption. While they helped shape an understanding of what was going on, they were too well crafted to be believable. A low light was a cracking video being spoilt by a spoken word track that kept repeating words (to the effective of) birmingham's a dump but I like it. This wasn't enjoyable and left a lot of the dialogue feeling like an overly earnest arts-council funded project desperately trying to be 'in touch' with its location. More relaxed, discursive dialogue would have worked much better.

Today the Olympic flame touches down in the UK and the nation of Cornwall will eat cream teas to celebrate. The flame, an addition to the 1933 Olympic Games, was meant to link one empire with another. Now it serves as a moral booster ahead of the games. For me, I'd instead suggest you take yourself down to Victoria Square and enjoy the (free) show tonight. This show, like the Olympics, is at its best when all is silent and we get the opportunity to marvel at the strength, beauty and delicacy of the human body.

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