As ghosts the circus performers from Gratte Ciel floated in mid air, dancing and spinning, showering the enraptured crowd below, in soft white feathers. Like ripples in a pond, the feathers spread out from the centre of the city, strewn far and wide from where they had first fallen and appeared to follow the revellers homeward. Presented as a test event for Hull 2017, the visit by Place Des Anges, must be hailed as a spectacular success.
The searchlights scanned the rooftops and one by one brilliant white, winged figures appeared, skipping lightly from one apex to the next. Open-mouthed with a mix of awe and wonder the crowd, numbering ten-thousand, gazed skyward en-masse.
An orange spark heralded the start and the first ‘angel’ slowly traversed the sea of people below. The feathered figures silhouetted against the walls of Hull College reminiscent of Pan’s lost boys.
Resplendent in dazzling white garb, luminescent against the darkening sky, white-faced like Pierrots of classic French pantomime sans tears, joyful the angels descended from the skies, to bestow their benevolent gift of feathers unto the people of Hull.
The soundtrack to the aerial spectacle, began with an eerie sound akin to the scree of a raptor rather than a human voice which stunned the crowd into silence. The music, ambient and trance-like, mellowed into a hypnotic soundscape with Affro-French hip hop and tribal beats.
If there were a narrative to the overall piece, I didn’t catch on. There was a gradual crescendo of activity, as angels bearing suitcases and baskets appeared in front and from behind, each emerging to make the journey across the wire, some riding strange contraptions, figures spinning in a whirl of feathers and light.
A brilliant white angel appeared as if by magic and began floating through the air, passing overhead like a balletic barrage balloon.
The wire assemblies and contraptions had the same vintage look as the costumes, with visible wheels, the baskets, the old-fashioned umbrella, each adding to a sense of strange antiquity.
The figures moved on the wires at different speeds, some floated, some appeared to be running, albeit suspended upside down, a further few had bungees attached, allowing them to control their descent and pirouette gracefully to the earth.
There were playful moments too, with a pillow fight and clowning taking place high above, as all around feathers blanketed the ground like a scene from a storybook. Young and old lost themselves in the moment and played like excited children in the feathers.
Place Des Anges in Hull, although attracting 10,000 people to the city centre on a Saturday night, went off without a hitch, helped in no small part by the army of volunteers, checking tickets and directing people to the various entrances to the site at Queen’s Gardens.
For the organisers, the theatre company Gratte Ciel and for 2017, Place Des Anges has been a triumph, for the people of Hull it was a memorable, magical experience and just a hint of what could be on the way next year.
#placedesanges for more pictures and videos from the event.
Images courtesy and copyright Phillip Rhodes