451, Periplum produced by The Corn Exchange Newbury

Sat 18th April 2015, Shaw House, Newbury

Periplum’s incendiary outdoor performance at Shaw House was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, set in a society where books are banned, firemen are employed to burn them, and acts of violence are rewarded. Society exists in a medicated state of compliance with television in lieu of friends and family.

The lawns of Shaw House were transformed by Periplum’s dark and menacing night time 360 degree surround performance, which combined immersive sound, sensory theatre, fire and dramatic live action to evoke the sinister atmosphere of Bradbury’s novel.

Official government instructions were given by loud speaker, military music and aircraft sounds blared out, and books that had been banned by real societies were burned with pyrotechnic bursts of fire.

The action took place amongst the crowd and high above the audience’s heads, or else hurtled suddenly towards the viewers, with performers and musicians perched on poles or moving on giant wheeled firemans ladders mounted with spot lights.

The show followed the story of Fireman Guy Montag who starts to question the system and develop a love of books. He ultimately rebelled, becoming a fugitive, before joining the Book People who find sanctuary outside the city.

One audience member said, “The only light was the burning of the books. That flash of light in the darkness really brought the menace out. You had to be on your guard and keep shifting your focus and attention. The action could break out anywhere around you and the audience had to move. That was appropriately unsettling for the theme.”

Bradbury’s classic text has proven prophetic, reflected in the rise of the ipad, surveillance, interactive media, the televised pursuit of fugitives, and the continuing radical power of the written word.

Watch video clips of 451

Interview with Claire and Damian from Periplum

Funded by Arts Council England. Built at 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space. Commissioned by Without Walls Street Arts Consortium, Brighton Festival, Greenwich & Docklands Festival, and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

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