World Begins in Wakefield
Turner on the birth of a great piece of community theatre.
3 July 1988
the last month Wakefield has been seething with artistic activities
and events - anything from cake sculpture and busking kite flying
and pavement painting - to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its
charter. And for three days this week 400 people - three quarters
of them children - have taken over Wakefield cathedral for performances
of Gary Carpenter's atavistic musical epic of creation: Mythologies.
spectacular work by Wakefield's composer-in-residence is a journey
through the great creation myths of the Rig Veda, Navaho, Maori,
ztec, Aftrican, Chinese and the Bible to show that since our beginnings
we have all addresed the same enigma and wondered at the same night
express the enormity of his theme, Carpenter uses 150 instruments
from full brass band to Northumbrian pipe ranged stereophonically
round the cathedral so that sound gushes from behind pillars, pours
down from the vaultings and ricochets off the stage glass.
myth is performed, basically, by one school but they interact and
overlap from time to time so that action and music pool in different
areas of the cathedral's immensity.
by professionals from local opera and dance companies, the cast,
musicians, mask costume, props, puppets and banner makers have created
an experience which was, for me, more theatre in the accepted sense
of a performance but nearer a rite which we all shared.
wasn't just a matter of numbers - a Last Night of the Proms syndrome
- but rather a combination of sound, image, movement and energy
which actually triggered unconscious memories and feeling so that
we began, in a frightened sort of way, to participate in our mythmaking.
problems with the amplification system which distorted the narrator's
diction, this community opera was the most powerful theatrical (for
want of a better word) experience I've ever had to the extent that
the prospect of sitting throught more conventional kinds of drama
now leaves me feeling brittle and emptily sophisticated.
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