Producer: Stuart Griffiths for Birmingham Hippodrome
Artistic Directors: Kevin Finnan &Patrick Nolan
Designer: Simon Dorman
Composers: Sophy Smith &Tom Dickenson
Reviewer: Will James
Standing in Victoria Square in Birmingham you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in Southampton Docks waving your loved ones goodbye as they board a giant ship ready to set sail to lands unknown. With its opening night cancelled due to poor weather, The Voyage was praying for clear skies as it helped open the London 2012 Festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome, The Voyage is a free outdoor dance theatre experience created by the UK theatre dance company Motionhouse and the Australian physical theatre company Legs on the Wall. These two companies join forces to bring professional dancers and aerialists together with cast of nearly 140 community performers, including a live brass band and choir, to board a ship and invite an audience (well in excess of 4500 people) along with them.
The Voyage expertly holds the audience from its beginning with suitcases floating through the audience heading towards a huge ship that is docked outside Birmingham Town Hall. Tight rope walkers scale Simon Dorman’s huge set-piece, dancers form a human anchor from a trapeze as the live brass band march through the sea of people towards the ship. Boarding at the same time are young people and adults eager to wave and set sail on their voyage. The excitement is infectious as the audience look on open-mouthed at the two lovers flying overhead while beautiful, simple contemporary dance fills the cabins and balconies over looking the audience.
The music by Sophy Smith and Tom Dickenson is simply stunning and carries the narrative of the piece, especially in a terrifying storm sequence that sees the ship transformed with stunning interactive projections by award winning Logela Media and performers flung from the set as they struggle to survive.
The UK and Australia have always had a special relationship and the genius of bringing together its two foremost dance theatre companies and the gain for both countries through mass immigration throughout the decades is clear.
Spectacle is a word that is often over used in theatre but for The Voyage there is no other word. This outside dance theatre performance uses every sense to tell a simple story of love and loss, companionship and adventure. The feeling of pride, patriotism and wonder was palpable tonight as the City of Birmingham broke into spontaneous applause throughout the 45 minute extravaganza. Everyone knew how special and unique this event was and will be eternally grateful that their city was chosen to host it.
Runs until 24th June.
Picture: Katja Ogrin