Sea Odyssey: Giant hopes for Liverpool

Emily Jupp meets the "Lilliputians" who work for theatre company "Royal de Luxe" and gets the reactions from the streets

Something is happening in Liverpool. Radio Merseyside has been broadcasting the sound of snoring in the background of its programme all morning, there is a giant deep-sea diver’s helmet, just visible above the surface of the Mersey, some electricity pylons have moved and there are a lot more French people here than usual.

These subtle changes herald a massive event: the giants are coming. Everyone in the city seems to know about the giants,“I heard the diver is going to shake the mayor's hand” says a fellow train passenger, “Oh those things” sighs my cab driver, “they'll be blocking up the roads”.

“There's supposed to be a giant dog” a woman tells me at the Town Hall, overflowing with excitement, “and he wees on everyone”.

On the whole, Liverpudlians seem very pleased to be the hosts of the country's largest street performance by the French marionette company Royal de Luxe. “ People aren't talking about them like they're puppets. They're talking about them like they're real” says Claire McColgan, Director of Culture at Liverpool City Council, who worked with Royal de Luxe for two years to figure out how to bring the giants to the streets.

It's a massive operation. Aside from the logistical issues like how to turn a 50-foot-tall marrionette around in a busy street there is the problem of mechanically making them move. It requires between 20 and 30 people to operate each giant, plus around 200 volunteers from the local community to act as guides stationed along the roads.

This is the first time the giants have been able to march across a whole city, thanks to a very adaptable local council. When the giant spider arrived in 2008 to celebrate the European Capital of Culture, designed by another French company La Machine, it needed to cross a junction with a giant roundabout blocking it's path. Rather than abort the visit from the arachnid, the council solved the issue by removing the roundabout. Similar issues came up this time and were resolved by subtle alterations to the layout of the city.

At 9.30am on Friday, around 15,000 people are gathered in Stanley Park, where the snoring comes from. A 30-foot-tall giant girl is sleeping with a very large black Mexican dog, named Xolo (pronounced “chollo”) on her lap. A sea of children are chanting, “Wake up! wake up!”, then slowly, almost imperceptibly, her eyes begin to open, she looks around, perplexed by the sight of the strange crowd.

“It was very emotional” says Veronica Reddy, a local, 42, “the atmosphere was electric, you could smell the sea air”.

“You can tell she's one of us” adds Lynne Edwards, 57, smiling, “'cos she's got a scouse brow.”

I tell Gwenaelle Raux, the Executive Director of the company, what people are saying. “It's very funny because in Santiago they said she seems to be from Chile and in Mexico they said she was Mexican. It's a universal language, with the eyes, the heart and the manipulation.”

As the Royal de Luxe operators, who call themselves Lilliputians, help the girl to get showered and dressed to the music of The Liverpool Philharmonic Children's Orchestra, it's true that words aren't needed to tell the story. The girl giant's eyes seem full of expression; she is lost – and looking for someone.

“When she woke up this morning, I felt in the public there was emotion,” says Helene Sarrazin, an actor and director who controls the girl's eyes. She always takes an assistant from the city where the company performs to get a sense of the area and its people. She walks backwards, facing the giant, so she has little contact with the audience, “I don't look at the public, but I feel them,” she says. “I feel with the soul.  I can tell the people of this town are very nice and they are with us. This morning it was very, very...” she clutches her chest, clearly moved. “I think the town likes it.”

Later the 50-foot-tall diver emerges from the sea and walks to the Town Hall, where he greets the Mayor. The audience has swelled to nearly 50,000. The sensitivity of the Lilliputians, along with their physical energy, as they haul the pullies that operate the giants' wooden limbs, seem to breathe life into these ethereal creatures.  Sarrazin even speaks as though she is merely a conduit for the girl giant's feelings: “She is very, very expressive, even if I do nothing.  I am very transparent...I have to think about what her desires are. I have to be very open and just reactive, not active.” I begin to suspect the giants might have souls.

Sea Odyssey runs from Friday 20 April to Sunday 22 April http://www.giantspectacular.com/

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn