The Twilight Hour, Meridian Showground Cleethorpes. 24th September 2021.
The Twilight Hour
Periplum produced by From The Fields
The Festival of the Sky
Meridian Showground Cleethorpes
Friday 24 September
The Festival of the Sky was a popular and award-winning festival that brought colour, culture and vibrancy to the Cleethorpes seafront. Unfortunately, as with most aspects of life COVID interfered and the Festival has been reinvented for 2021. Instead of a two day long walkabout on Cleethorpes promenade, the Festival, working with events specialists From the Fields, artists Periplum were commissioned to create The Twilight Hour, a spectacular walkabout held at the Meridian Showground. Over two nights, the performances delve deep into stories from from Cleethorpes' (and surrounding district) local history, stories and folklore.
This is a show to be experienced in person. Any attempt to describe it will inevitably fall short and fail to do the show justice. Though I intend to attempt to do so, I can only say that it is something you really should see for yourself.
With a 9pm start, this outdoor performance needed darkness to fall before it could begin. The field washed in a hazy blue light, served to welcome the audience who entered in eager anticipation. Subtle electronic humming grew louder as the crowd entered the performance space, unsure where they should congregate to get the best view. The answer to this conundrum was that there is no "best" place to view the spectacle as the action moves across the show ground and is pretty much universally visible wherever you are located.
The music reached a crescendo and a figure clad in white climbed atop a platform, and stood with a smoke flare in each hand, illuminated by the roving lights on the lighting towers dotted around the field. A trio of witches climbed among the branches of the trees bringing fire to the branches and setting the scene for the telling of tales familiar to some though unfamiliar to many. It told tales of Cleethorpes from its ancient beginning through to the present day. A series of spirits were conjured to convey the stories as beautiful aerial ballets, employing raised platforms and complex trolleys to transport them as if gliding across the showground's field.
Local actors provided the voice-over that drew together the strands of the narrative, such as it was, in the form of an epic poem. To hear local stories related with a local accent is something many were not expecting. Especially those who had descended upon the event from Thorpe Park. The clarity of the narration relayed through the PA system gave the basic premise of the show, at "The Twilight Hour" a group of witches gather to call up the spirits of Cleethorpes' past. Each spirit celebrated an aspect of local history and was accompanied by spectacular aerial work from Periplum's gravity-defying performers, and the use of fire, flares and lights added to the specacle.
In addition, a troupe of local performers added to the ranks of the show's main performers, as they led the procession through the showground from point to point. We heard tales of the Witches' Circle in Weelsby Woods, of Levi Stephenson a trader celebrated on Cleethorpes' flag, Croft Baker Maternity Hospital, Meg's Island and a pirate past, and tales of the Meridian Line with its mythic qualities.
The performance set pieces were breath-taking, and with a black Humber sky as a backdrop, the ghostly apparitions painted tableaux that will reside in the audience's memory . The movement and co-ordination of the principal performers looked effortless and that is the key to making it a magical experience to watch. The balletic nature of their movement mixed with the poetic narration merged seemlessly producing a memorable, mesmerising spectacle.
At 45 minutes in length, the show was well-judged and pitched perfectly. Any longer and the audience might have begun to feel that they had seem all they needed to. Children who were enraptured by the sound and the lights would have exceeded their attention span. Adults unfamiliar with tales of Old Clee would have found their attention wandering. The finale of the show, as fireworks illuminated the blackness of the skyline, were accompanied appropriately enough, with a break in the clouds allowing the moon to make a fitting appearance as if perfectly choreographed.
The Festival of the Sky excelled iself in bringing such an ambitious large-scale show to the people of Cleethorpes. A free show performed twice free of charge to an audience of thousands, demonstrates that the people of North East Lincolnshire are ready to receive cultural offerings that are unexpectedly different. No one can pre-guess what the people will enjoy if its produced for them and I hope we will continue to see more work like this pushing boundaries from this festival and others planned for the region. I shall keep my eyes peeled.
Andy Evans 25 September 2021
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