Off with Eleanor to see the National Youth Theatre's launch of S'warm at Battersea Power Station. A very different kind of youth arts project, raising awareness about global warming and the decline of the bee population in an impressively marshaled outdoor spectacle featuring over 500 participants.
With the the imposing shell of the building as a backdrop to the action and a golden sunset over the river behind us, the hive sprung out from all corners of the dusty wasteland and choreographed a manic and at times breathtaking ballet, punctuated by a brilliant dystopian band and the operatic cri de coeur of the dying Queen. The commitment of the participants was amazing, wherever you turned mini dramas, battles, dialogues and conflicts were being wholeheartedly invested in. The lack of cynicism and desire to create an encompassing event for the audience drove the work and made for a really memorable experience.
Part of the exploration behind the S'warm has been to access technologies in innovative ways and some of the rehearsals have looked at the way social networking, skype and specifically the text can both control and manipulate our action and thought. Some of these workshop discoveries made there way into the performance, with random instructions and individual patterns being sent to each of the actors. The hive is uniform, but each member has a different schedule. It's a persuasive metaphor for the pretence of individuality that sites such as facebook celebrate. Conformity as a price for social cohesion? Here's this story.
The work is the first section of a five day odyssey that will take the action and message of the piece up river, culminating in the polished money markets of Canary Wharf next Sunday.