Land of Giants Awakens Belfast at Titanic Slipways
July 6, 2012 Laura Caldwell 0 Comments
A couple of months ago I heard rumours of an epic new show coming to Belfast – Land of Giants.
Yet when I asked around, no one seemed to know what it was about. “Uhhh, there’s cranes and acrobatics and fireworks and music and stuff I think” was the usual reply. This was obviously going to be a show shrouded in mystery and I would just have to go and find out all about it for myself.
After booking and paying for tickets for this long awaited event, I recently received news that “in a GIANT act of generosity, Legacy Trust UK has announced that they are making the huge Land of Giants event…free to everyone”, with refunds for everyone who had paid for tickets. Happy days.
So on 30th June we didn’t really know what to expect and as we headed towards the Titanic Slipways we were still none the wiser. We were greeted with the sight of scaffolding that ran the length of the slipways with a massive crane at each end. The scaffolding was lined with red ribbons and as it neared the starting time of 10.30pm the tension built as night set in and the distant sound of snoring giants could be heard overhead.
Shortly after 10.30pm the wind picked up, the rain came down in sheets and with an explosion of fireworks, the show began once and for all. At first we looked in awe as a girl in a red dress ran the length of the scaffolding, breaking through the red ribbons and being chased by red fireworks until she reached the end where she was hoisted into the air by a crane and somersaulted into the air. From this moment it was clear that Land of Giants was going to be something special.
As our main character hurtled through the air, musicians assembled along the “stage” and as the heavens truly opened on us, the sound of the drums exploded in our ears like thunder. The drummers were perfectly in time with each other and they played belligerently as flames whipped around them from torches nearby and red flags were whipped through the air. The atmosphere was haunting and personally, I think that the relentless rain added to the drama of the whole event.
At this point in the show large lit-up letters were passed down the scaffolding from person to person, while projections were displayed on the Titanic Belfast building itself. (These projections were top-notch and even better than the ones seen at the opening of Titanic Belfast at the Titanic Light Show).
A home-grown voice-over could be heard of a poem or collection of words which seemed to hypnotise the crowd as ‘Land of Giants’ acknowledged Belfast’s industrial past and we saw linen workers pass a large sheet of linen down the line.
Next up, four massive frames were hoisted onto the ‘stage’ and with the flashbulb clink of a family photograph we were introduced to several ordinary people from Belfast and their personal stories as they came, went and lived in Belfast. As the stories progressed we were eventually introduced to the ancestors of our protagonist Grace who worked at the shipyard.
The frames drop and the ‘stage’ fills with performers dressed in workers clothes as they begin to beat out rhythms on the metal bars of the construct. Once again, it’s hypnotic and terribly fitting as we are standing on the slipways, a few yards from where the works of Harland and Wolff would have carried out their daily grind.
Then, Grace is back and everything comes together as hydraulics cause lit-up funnels to rise majestically into the air. As performers hold light-up discs which represent port-holes, the crowd suddenly sees the Titanic, Belfast’s most famous export recreated before their very eyes, on the exact spot that she stood 100 years ago. The choir sings and the voice-over waxes lyrical about the great ship as only three of the four funnels puff smoke (on the real ship one funnel was for aesthetic reasons only and didn’t function as a real funnel). It is this precision and attention to detail that makes Land of Giants a truly spectacular show.
The voice-over repeats its poetic mantra of “longer than life – higher than space” over and over and over again as the drummers assemble once more. We are back at the beginning, we have gone full circle to where we once started. The cranes lift six performers into the air as spectacular fireworks mark the end of the show.
The 45-minute spectacular was held as a part of the London 2012 Festival and was under the artistic direction of Mark Murphy, featuring a cast and crew of over 500 local performers and musicians. This project was the culmination of over two years work and a hell of a lot of talent from our local performers, all performed to a crowd of 20,000.
Land of Giants was truly a show worth waiting for, it told the story of the people, of industry, of life and how words and letters bind us to each other. We live in a land forged by giants, a land dependant on history and storytelling and Land of Giants truly showcases both.
The show finishes, the crowd are rapturous with applause and as if right on cue, the rain stops. As the crowds filter out, someone knocks over a barrier and as everyone trips over themselves getting out, it is clear that the magic is lost and we are back to reality.