|Art meets the holy as cathedrals host circus act|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.uk|
A gravity defying circus act is to be staged inside some of the country’s most awe inspiring cathedrals, as part of the cultural festival accompanying the London 2012 Olympics.
Many who have knelt in quiet prayer and contemplation in our great cathedrals have been moved to gaze heavenwards at the vaulting ceiling of the nave, as if seeking guidance from above.
What they do not usually expect to see is a woman dressed in a revealing white leotard, entwined in long black sheets writhing around to the strains of an angelic chorus.
But that is the heavenly apparition that will greet visitors to Norwich, Ely, Ripon and Gloucester cathedrals over the next few weeks.
As part of the London 2012 Festival being held to coincide with the Olympics, those four churches will be the setting for How Like An Angel, an hour long performance by the Australian circus company Circa, and the acclaimed British choir I Fagiolini.
The highlight of the show will be the air-born rope ballet of Circa’s performers, dangling 12 metres above the floor of the nave.
The cathedrals were chosen as venues precisely as a way of “staging a secular work in a sacred space”. However, the organisers have gone out of their way to reassure churchgoers that there is nothing inappropriate in the performance.
William Galinsky, artistic director of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival – which is the first to host the show in the UK – said: “Of course whether audiences think its fitting for a church depends on their view of faith and spirituality.
"But this isn’t a case of people cavorting round on ropes. How Like An Angel is a profound work about the limitations and possibilities of the human body.
“There is very much something of the divine in this work of art which elevates it to a certain level, in complete keeping with these wonderful, divine spaces.”
How Like an Angel was conceived after Ruth MacKenzie, the director of the London 2012 Festival, approached Jonathan Holloway, who was running the Norfolk and Norwich Festival at the time, about staging a performance in a public space.
Mr Holloway and Circa’s director Yaron Lifschitz, hit on the idea of using the vast space provided by cathedral naves.
Mr Holloway said: “For a long time I’d wanted to do a piece of work bringing together the physical prowess of circus with the vocal prowess of choral music and put that into a cathedral that would use all the gaps and space that is so impressive in these big buildings.”
He added: “You spend a lot of time looking up. It’s at times ethereal, at times as scary and dramatic as you would expect from circus. And its respectful of the cathedral space. But not over respectful.”
The soundtrack to How Like an Angel, which was first performed in Perth, Western Australia, will be the polyphonic Renaissance singing of I Fagiolini, who will at times stand close to the stage which runs through the cathedral aisle, while at other moments singing from the choir stalls.
The show is funded from ticket sales and a £200,000 grant from Locog, the organisers of London 2012, along with support from the Arts Council.
* How Like an Angel is at Norwich Cathedral from June 26-28; Ely Cathedral from July 2-3; Gloucester Cathedral from July 16-17 and Ripon Cathedral from July 18-19. Tickets cost £20 (£5 for concessions).