AFTER the uplifting oddity of The Berkshire Giant earlier in the summer, The Corn Exchange’s Outdoor Programme took a darker turn on Friday, when performance theatre company Periplum brought together an international cast and local volunteers to present The Bell, the tale of hope arising from war and death.
Crammed into the Market Place, spectators were fully part of the action as a ragtag band of brothers, speaking in English and Spanish, fought an evil force set on devastating their unnamed land. Fires burned as demonic, inhuman invaders swept their way through the crowd, causing fear and mayhem as they passed.
Hooded torchbearers drove paths through the crowd, splitting it asunder, as fireworks shot into the sky and bloodied bodies hung from scaffolds, while a soloist pronounced her pure song of peace from the Town Hall balcony.
Eventually, a sign of strength arose from the ashes, as flags were thrust into the hands of strong-armed spectators and a massive rocking structure was brought across the Market Place. On it, a fiery bell was forged and raised, representing the resilience and hope of the defeated people.
While The Berkshire Giant was devised specifically to be performed locally, Periplum have been presenting The Bell in international settings for a number of years. However, such thoughtful use of the Market Place setting, excellent lighting and staging and the intensity of being among the action created a unique experience from which everyone present would take their own emotions and sensations.
As thoughts turn to Autumn, the final two events in The Corn Exchange’s Outdoor Programme for 2012 are the anarchic Halloween Hullabaloo on October 28, and the Festival of Light Lantern Procession on December 16.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on August 16, 2012