Over the course of this weekend, visitors and residents of Liverpool have been treated to a unique street event. French marionette street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe have brought their show to the streets of Liverpool. Two ‘giants’ have been roaming the streets in search of each other as a moving and uplifting story played out to the crowds. The first giant, a little girl (accompanied by her ever faithful dog) is searching for her Uncle, the second giant, who emerged from Canning Dock clutching a letter from her deceased father who had perished on the Titanic.
It might be clichéd, but you simply had to be there to witness this. The television and newspaper coverage simply doesn’t do the sight of these impressive behemoths any justice. Not only impressive feats of human engineering (think of a children’s toy figure scaled up to 50ft and then with a human entourage and a vehicle to propel it along and you’re not far off) but also the engaging, and at times, very sad story that drives the giants around being a focal point for the experience. Part of the joy is in the very simple storytelling. No complexity here, just a family torn apart by tragedy and trying to come to terms with their loss. Very sadly, it seems that this is also based on a true story from a letter on display in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
The crowds were in awe, for many, this will have been an unforgettable experience. From talking to some of the volunteers who had been marshalling along the route, it was clear that they felt they had been taking part in an astonishing, maybe life-changing event and something that they would do again ‘in a heartbeat’.
As a piece of street theatre, Sea Odyssey is unforgettable. The expressions and tic of the giants bring the story alive, and the giants almost take on a life of their own. Heartrending and touching, the size of the spectacle doesn’t remotely diminish the impact of the story. An inspired use of percussion and pyrotechnics bring hand-written letters from the Titanic raining down on the crowds at one point during proceedings.
The fact that the organisers had thought to involve local schoolchildren in the writing of the letters from the Titanic and that the giant travelled across so much of the city allowed for the whole community to come together. It also continued the tradition of focused events in Liverpool that had begun with the 2008 Capital of Culture award. Slickly organised, and not a disappointed face amongst any of the enraptured visitors, lets hope this isn’t the last time Royal de Luxe visit these shores.