Tag Archives: motionhouse

‘The Voyage’ launches

This summer a huge ship will be sailing into Birmingham as the centrepiece of a weekend of free outdoor performances to open the Cultural Olympiad. The Voyage – an hour long spectacle combining dance, theatre and music – will take place every evening at 10pm between 21-24 June in Victoria Square. The performances will be the culmination of a two year project between Leamington Spa’s highly regarded dance theatre company Motionhouse, Australian theatre company Legs on the Wall, the Birmingham Hippodrome, and Logela Multimedia.

Last Monday, I was invited to the launch event for The Voyage at Birmingham Town Hall. Through previous involvement with Motionhouse I had heard bits and pieces about this summer’s spectacle, but this was the first time I had been able to see how it is all going to look. The verdict? Very impressive and very ambitious! Five minutes into the thirty minute preview, given mainly by Kevin Finnan, the artistic director, I realised I was going to need to tweet and hash tag the flood of information he was expounding, and my opinions on it all. Here’s a brief synopsis from those tweets of what The Voyage is, what may make it a success, and what problems it might face:

The story is influenced by the history of sea voyages from the 1930s to the 1960s in an echo of those making their way to London this summer for the Olympics. Dancers, aerialists and assorted other performers will open the show by making their way through the crowd under a sea of tickertape and as they walk the gang plank onto the passenger liner they will accompanied by the huge amateur choir singing the ‘Song of Departure’. The ship will then ‘sail’ away on an ocean of tears from the numerous weeping eyes projected onto the hull and deck. The voyage can now take place, but it is punctuated by a violent storm and the ‘Dance of the Lost’ as passengers search for those washed overboard. Their rescue will take place within the crowd, and this interaction with the public and the immersive nature of the event is what underpins the whole ethos of The Voyage. The performance will finish with a triumphant and glorious arrival as the ship docks back into the square, the conclusion of an event involving not only professional dancers but also 140 community performers from the area.

Finnan gave the attendants a vivid idea of what The Voyage will look like, while leaving plenty of tantalising details to intrigue and ensure a large turn out on the opening night. The inspiration and ideas behind the performance, of immersive journeys and the “perusal of ideas” as Finnan put it, are immediately tangible to a public audience who may not have encountered dance and performance on this scale or level of ability before. The producers are aiming for an audience of 5000-6000 per night, which looks ambitious, especially as each ‘voyage’ doesn’t start until 10pm and takes place within the health and safety nightmare of the uneven square. The timing has obvious benefits and drawbacks: the night sky will make the whole show more dramatic, and a 10pm start allows those seeking evening entertainment in the city a cultural kick off before bars/clubs/recitals etc. However, the late start will also prevent young children from attending, and this is a major blow for families keen on taking in such an impressive (and free) event. All in all though, The Voyage is going to be an extraordinary way to spend a summer evening, and well worth students sticking around for (or making their own voyage back to the city). It’s certainly one I’m not going to be missing.

For regular updates follow @thevoyage2012 on Twitter.

Words by Andy Newnham

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Spiceal Street Opening

Spiceal Street has been a long awaited addition to the city centre. Perfectly positioned between Bullring and the St Martin’s Church, the new restaurant dining complex has been undergoing creation since March this year. The new selection of restaurants includes Birmingham’s first Brown Bar, ChaoBaby, a chic thai banquet-style outlet, locally-run Handmade Burger Co. and a Nandos, bringing a new dimention to St. Martin’s Square.

The complex features a modern, curved facade with a sweeping metallic design, including large glass panels allow an open-plan view of each restaurant and allow light from inside to warmly shine in the square. Spiceal Street’s architecture has obviously been designed with careful consideration for the area; though in line with the style of Bull Ring’s modern shape and silver spheres, the soft edges of the complex and natural wood surfaces are at the same time un-intrusive to the traditional beauty of the St Martin’s church.

The opening was an all day event reaching into the evening with a performance from innovative dance company Motionhouse. This particular performance was a ‘Machine Dance’ production called ‘Traction’, featuring dancers interacting with mobile JCB diggers in a hauntingly captivating display. Darting in and around the moving machines, the performers deftly embraced the large vehicles as part of their routine through various jumps, lifts and sequences, leaving the crowd looking on in amazement. The music from surrounding speakers was notably dark and charged, echoing the intensity of the display alongside dramatic sweeping spotlights on the performance area.

The dance was not only impressive due to the technical abilities of each of the dancers but in its complete originality. Aspects of modern industry and the place of man in relation to machine were inevitably triggered by the performance, perhaps providing a suitable accompaniment to the setting of modernity in the form of this new restaurant complex, placed in contrast with the age and tradition still made present by the church.

Spiceal Street has certainly brought a new zest to St. Martin’s Square. The sleek design and welcoming atmosphere brought about by the opening has established it as a potential landmark of Birmingham’s centre. Not only has it created more opportunities for good food and dining in the city, the appearance of Motionhouse and their memorable performance definitely created a new sense of diversity and culture to Bull Ring and the surrounding area.

Words by Anna Lumsden
24th Nov 2011