Timeless. Joli Vyann. Our Future Starts Here. St James Square, Grimsby. 27 May 2023.
Updated: Jun 20
Presented by The Culture House for "Our Future Starts Here"
St James Square, Grimsby
27 May 2023
Grimsby is so lucky to be home to The Culture House. Over the last few years, Grimsby's very own Culture House has produced some of the most significant cultural events that the town has witnessed. They are change-makers, place-shapers and future-facers, creating cultural experiences accessible to all and in recent years have succeeded in bringing us the first two Festivals of the Sea, Luke Jerram's Moon and Gaia and in conjunction with Periplum and Walk the Plank, produced The Twilight Hour as part of The Festival of The Sky. In 2022, 50000 people enjoyed the work of The Culture House and they continue to bring fantastic work to the area challenging the nature of culture in the area. The latest event is part of Our Future Starts Here, a project that began in 2022, exploring pressing issues of our time through an innovative arts and culture programme. Edition One and Edition Two explored sustainable futures and began to tell the story of Grimsby’s place in the world now. Edition Three continues the conversation, presents ground-breaking artistic work.
This afternoon, I visited St James Square outside Grimsby Minster to watch Timeless by Joli Vyann. I was greeted by a 7 metres-high hourglass located in the centre of the square, looking for all the world as if it could be an art installation. Indeed, many passers-by suggested that they thought it was a piece of modern art and were surprised to discover it is the stage setting for an exciting show.
As a show, Timeless reminds us that our time on this earth is not infinite. The clock is always ticking and humanity is responsible for its own impact upon the planet. An initial voiceover from David Attenborough informs us that the world is facing a man-made disaster on a global scale. He tells us that if we do not take action, the collapse of civilisation and the destruction of much that occupies the natural world as we know it, is under threat. Yet we have the means at our disposal to do something about it. Throughout the piece, Joli Vyann illustrate the difficulty and the fragility of our situation, but far from inducing climate anxiety, they want to address the issue as one which has a solution should we choose to embrace it and though time IS running out, we can (and must) do everything in our power to solve the matter.
Joli Vyann blend acrobatics, gymnastics, dance and circus skills to present their show, and the cast of four demonstrate mastery of their craft at the highest level. The performance is hypnotic and it is as difficult to look away, as it is to take in every detail of what is being performed before you. As you seek to place meaning upon the imagery of the performers who scuttle across the rotating hourglass with skill, grace, power and exterity in a breath-taking fashion.
I found it difficult at times to understand the narrative of the piece, but the signified action of the performers was performed so beautifully, it almost didn't matter. The ambiguity at times may be part of the message. A group of teenage girls sat near me were chatting to an absent friend on speaker phone and described the plot as "It's these dancers who are passing a plant to each other to protect it, while they do this amazing dance. It's sick". They ascribed an intention to the wordless actions of the company and were probably not too far from its true meaning.
We have one world, we have to protect it and do everything within our power to preserve it for future generations. Time and tide wait for no man, as the old saying goes. The climate emergency we face is not something that will arise in the future, it is something that is happening all around us and we must act if we want to avoid the worst excesses of man's inconsiderate actions. Joli Vyann convey that fact, through every twist and turn they execute, through every throw or leap performed. Mankind is currently involved in a delicate balancing act and has the ability to work effectively or to allow the world around us to crumble. The hourglass represents the balance and its persistent rotation reminds us that the situation will not stand still and wait for mankind to make up its mind.
It was a privilege to watch such consummate performers present their art to the people of Grimsby. I hope that the message begins to permeate the consciousness of all who were fortunate enough to witness this event.
Andy Evans 27 May 2023
Watch a full performance of this piece on YouTube here