Saturday, May 06, 2006

Science Fantastique

It’s Saturday morning, the forecast rain hasn’t yet materialised, so G. and I decide to go into town to see the giant rocket ship that’s crashed a test-tube’s throw from the headquarters of the Royal Society. It’s big all right, like a Land-of-the-Giants streamlined beer barrel with a red-lensed porthole; when we get there, a work crew and a crane are busy removing it from the hole it made in the road. An onlooker tells us that the giant elephant is just across the Mall, and so it is, towering above a happily bemused crowd. Attendants are decking it out in oriental cloths, and the giant girl-child (who clambered out of the rocket ship yesterday) is slowly making her way towards it.

All of which is part of a very wonderful four-day spectacle that has taken over streets and public places in central London, and liberated the imaginations of the city’s workers and visitors. Created by the French theatre company Royal de Luxe, it was first staged in Nantes to mark the centenary of Jules Verne’s death, and while it’s clear that the French know a thing or two about the honourable and ancient tradition of civic street theatre, I think Londoners should rise to this challenge. After all, we have ten years to work out how to stage scenes from War of the Worlds in time for the 150th anniversary of H.G. Wells’s birth.


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