Akai Struts His Stuff

We are super-excited that Into the Hoods is opening tonight at Royal Festival Hall. We found pint-sized sensation Akai – winner of Sky1’s Got To Dance – showing off his skills at Southbank Centre’s skate park. Impressive, no?

Into the Hoods: A London Fairytale runs from 30 July to 15 August. Find out more and book tickets here.

Big World Dance big success!

Big World Dance at Trafalgar Square

Big World Dancers take over Trafalgar Square

Congratulations to the thousands of you that made it to Big World Dance on 10 July and transformed Trafalgar Square – here are some pics amd video of the momentous occasion for your viewing pleasure!

Why are there yellow flags on Royal Festival Hall?

Rays of Light by Gingo Cardia, Festival Brazil, Southbank Centre 1

The colourful flags by Gringo Cardia represent the celebration of summer at Southbank Centre during Festival Brazil.

Along with the continual buzz of artistic activity, the summer months often mean two things at Southbank Centre. Pimms consumption reaches its dizzy heights on Central Bar Terrace outside Royal Festival Hall and Jeppe Hein’s Appearing Rooms drenches a multitude of enthusiastic volunteers who dare to brave the water jets.

This sense of joy has been reflected by a cross-site artwork called Rays of Light created by Brazilian designer Gringo Cardia.

Cardia, who started out as a gymnast, has earned an enviable reputation as one of the most sought-after designers in the world of performing arts and video in Brazil. He is perhaps most widely known for his Cirque du Soleil set-designs, although he has also worked in architecture and graphic design.

Pass by on the footpath along the Thames and you can’t miss Rays of Light. Cardia has chosen to celebrate Southbank Centre’s summer-long Festival Brazil with a brilliant collection of canary-yellow flags adorning many of our venues, including Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

‘[The idea] is to bring… the light of summer through the yellow colour flaming all over the building,’ he explains.

‘The inspiration for that is that yellow is the colour of Brazil and at the same time the colour of the sun, happiness and the summer.

‘The idea of adorning the building with such a simple but organic installation is that the building is alive. As the wind changes, the flags change their movement, and for me that is a thermometer of the nature – itself changing all the time.

‘[Lastly] I think the symbolism of the flags is party and [feeling] happiness together.

‘The yellow brings that explosion in such a grey environment and contrasts with the blue sky of summer. For me that’s the spirit of our Brazilian culture.’

Why don’t you come and join the party? Get involved in the many free Festival Brazil events taking place each weekend, including samba classes, live gigs and celebrations of Brazilian dance and music.

If it were up to you, what colour flags would you choose and why?

Rays of Light by Gingo Cardia, Festival Brazil, Southbank Centre 2

The flags appear on many of Southbank Centre's venues, including Queen Elizabeth Hall (pictured) and Royal Festival Hall.

Chaplin Biographer David Robinson on Jean-Baptiste Thierrée and Victoria Chaplin’s Le Cirque Invisible

Film critic and official and Charlie Chaplin’s official biographer David Robinson on Jean-Baptiste Thierrée and Victoria Chaplin’s Le Cirque Invisible which after a critically acclaimed sell out run returns to the Queen Elizabeth Hall this August.

First it was Le Cirque Bonjour, and then in turn, with the passing of four decades, “Imaginaire” and now “Invisible” (which it is not). Four decades? Or have those years themselves been imaginary and invisible, since the show still sparkles every night as new and fresh and untarnished?

Conversely, how in so brief a time – only four decades – can it have left such an indelible impression on successive generations, an impression not of any ordinary theatrical experience, but the deeper-digging and enduring memory of myth and fairy-tale? The fairy-tale magic that stays with us mostly comes from Victoria’s endless transformations. She either battles with or makes love to floating silks or umbrellas or furniture or ropes – and in the process is changed into mythical beasts, sea creatures, geometrical compositions, prancing horses, unearthly machines. She can vanish into a tiny box or grow till she seems to fill the stage. Enwrapped in wine glasses and Cinderella kitchen objects, she metamorphoses into a self-performing musical instrument.

Jean-Baptiste too from time to time undergoes transformation, but if the tiny, exquisite Victoria has a quality of fairy, he is the substantial embodiment of mischievous elf or goblin. While Victoria’s creations are generally ethereal, elusive as rainbows, Jean-Baptiste, with his sweetly demoniac grin, is always eager to confide, to share with us his own delight in his jests; his mild surprise when his conjuring tricks go right; his resignation when, as usual, they go wrong; his child-like naughtiness when it is not the expected dog that materializes but only its droppings. A gag he did 30 years ago is just as funny now, because it is not a gag, but Jean-Baptiste himself. Victoria’s transformations are mystical; Baptiste’s very human – a man in a wind-storm, another carried on the back of a wilting porter. He has his moments of crazed surreality too, merrily cycling with a skeleton; or joining forces with his own knees to form a vocal trio (at one brief moment maybe a quartet?) to perform The Pearl Fishers.

When I first saw the circus, 32 years ago, on its first big-city outing, in a tent on the wasteland of the Paris Halles, Baptiste boasted two suitcases which, placed on the ground, sprouted tiny legs and scuttled, merrily and uncontrolled, about the circus ring. The legs belonged to the Thierrées’ children, Aurelia and James. They long ago left the Cirque to establish their own shows, dazzling extensions of the same inspiration, with their own variations on that same singular vision which can perceive improbable kinship between disparate inanimate objects, and give those objects their own life: Aurelia makes stage curtains perform like trained animals; James is constantly beset by a none too friendly inanimate world.

Say what you will, these things do run in families, linger in the genes. The heightened vision of the physical world that marks this family’s creation, the sense of unexpected visual connections, is something unquestionably shared with father and grandfather Charles Chaplin – even though, in another century, the view of the world and the creative outcome may be very different. Significantly too Baptiste shares the progenitor Chaplin’s fascination with earlier visual clowns of the British stage, like Grimaldi, Dan Leno and Little Tich. The Cirque Invisible is unique, certainly, but it is not isolated in time. It occupies a clear place and a rare durability in the world tradition of spectacle and clowning and magic. In the long view of history, four decades is nothing and everything.

Le Cirque Invisible returns to Southbank Centre this August, find out more and book tickets.