The Enchanted Chandelier

French Performers Provide City With The Height Of Culture

Lee Barber || August 14th

There can be no doubt that the team behind Stoke-on-Trent's bid for City Of Culture 2021 will be rubbing their hands after the weekends majestic performances at Hanley Forest Park. The Enchanted Chandelier, produced by French company Transe Express, brought hundreds of people to the park over two separate evenings of glorious entertainment, full of fire, trapeze artists and live musicians in extravagant attire, and the crowds were certainly given something magical to take home with them.

Hosted by Appetite - a three-year programme aimed at getting more people in the city experiencing and enjoying the arts - The Enchanted Chandelier began with two drunken Frenchmen staggering around with bottles of wine and lanterns, complete with berets and trench coats. From nowhere, three people carrying flames come running onto the centre stage, screeching in high tones like a tribal calling, and proceed to light up the stands surrounding the centre stage.

Then appear the musicians. Only at this point in time, you have no idea that they are musicians, they simply run around calling and jeering and ringing their bells and showing off their wonderful outfits like Victorian aristocrats. But then the spectacle really started as the group attached themselves to the chandelier, or rather, in the case of the three trapeze artists and one of the drunken Frenchmen, simply climbed up it (fear not, my dear reader, the drunken Frenchmen were not actually drunk, it was all part of the act of course).

As the chandelier began to climb into the air, drums and bells bring incredibly enchanting music into the park, as the eight musicians hung with their instruments from the chandelier, which itself was attached to a crane ready to take them up to 50ft into the night sky. A daunting prospect alone, the musicians were somehow also able to produce not only sounds but an actual concert, music that you wouldn't think sounded out of place if you were to hear it in the forthcoming Harry Potter film. Dynamically inspiring, the musicians continued to perform as the the chandelier opened out into eight individual pieces and blossomed like a flower, while lights flashed on and off flowing perfectly with the music.

The three trapeze artists had as yet remained calm and calculated, keeping the cold night air away with blankets, making it seem as though hanging 50ft in the air was as easy as sitting on the ground watching. But here they removed their blankets, letting them fall down to the ground and instilling in me a terrible fear in me which probably isn't even worth going into further. One-by-one, the trapeze artists dazzled the crowd with unbelievable displays of acrobatic agility and finesse, and I sat opened mouthed and in awe of what I was witnessing, while the music continued to build and quieten, build and quieten.

Here I must mention that throughout all this time, the drunken Frenchmen who had remained on the ground, had been swirling the chandelier round in circles, as if standing 50ft in the air performing in an eight-piece band with three trapeze artists being magical all around them wasn't daunting enough. But as The Enchanted Chandelier reached its peak in height, the remaining drunken Frenchman was finally raised at the bottom, standing on a box which was attached by rope to the chandelier. As he stood proud on the box, several bright red flares surprised the crowd even more, before the flower slowly began to close, and the music began to draw to its close, and the chandelier made its way back down to the ground.

Susan Clarke, Director of B-Arts and heading the City Of Culture bid, was more than welcoming of the event,

'"What's it about then?"asked the person sitting next to me on the grass. "Watch, and you decide", I answered. The Enchanted Chandelier was just the sort of magical and engaging experience that we we need. A show that is comical, beautiful and clever enough to draw us in, while being open enough to make room for our thoughts, to make room for us. Thinking about what Stoke might look like as we get ready to bid to be UK City of Culture for 2021, this is the experience we need to get used, to get used to sharing. An evening of beauty that has room for us in it.'

A truly magical experience, The Enchanted Chandelier will stay with me for a very long time, and if Appetite have any more tricks like this up their sleeves, then the bid for the City Of Culture 2021 team most certainly will be feeling very confident right now.