Monday, 14 January 2013


A dark experience in The Famous Spiegeltent


Built in 1920 in Belgium, ‘The Famous Spiegeltent’ is one of the most lavishly decorated of the few original travelling tents that survive. Its current location is in the city’s Hyde Park for the duration of the festival. The people at the entrance are suitably garbed in a burlesque meets fairground style and the lovely woman with the sparkly dress lets me inside for a peek.
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It makes my spine tingle to think that Marlene Dietrich performed here in the 1930s. She sang ‘Falling in Love Again’ – one of my favourites. With its beautifully hand-crafted wooden surfaces, stained glass and inlaid mirrors, it feels way too substantial to be called a tent.
I’m invited to watch some of the night’s performance of Inside, starring the comedian Frank Woodley and acrobat Simon Yates. I’ve been warned it’s a dark piece, and it sure is. It’s about brothers inside a prison who yearn for freedom while trying to help each other through a horrific situation. They hatch an escape plan in response to being faced with an impossible dilemma. 

Sense of time and place remain ambiguous but their Eastern Bloc accents conjure up visions of gulags and concentration camps. There’s no slow build to this. By their sheer physicality and presence, the two artists manage to create a sense of impending doom from the start. What laughter it evokes is nervous. It’s a brilliant performance but the nightmarish quality of the piece sits at odds with its glamorous venue.


On my way out I notice the Festival gardens with its drinking venues are looking a little sparce. The big concert tonight is no doubt attracting most of the people. But I do come across one group of fellow workers here on a night out. They hail from England and Ireland in the main and a couple tell me they work for a brokerage company started two years ago by a 27-year old Brit. He now has nearly 200 people working for him.

And on my walk across Hyde Park……..





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