Peter Gabriel tunes in to write score for millennium spectacular

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The Independent Online
THE Millennium Dome entertainment spectacular will be a triumph of experience over youth - old stagers over Britpop tyros every time.

Peter Gabriel, the 49-year-old star, is staging a comeback for 2000, this time behind the scenes and away from the mikes and lights and fireworks.

The former Genesis member is writing the score for the 20-minute show that will be staged in the Dome's auditorium six times a day. He is also planning the show's contents with the creative director and rock set designer Mark Fisher, 52.

"No, it's not a musical telling the history of pop music" Gabriel says. "It's a fable that involves nature and man through performance, art, sight and sound, smell and colour. Lots of characters pop up in it. Scientists, behavioural scientists, artists, industrialists ... we must tell the story of the post-industrial landscape and the dilemmas that will face us."

To help Gabriel, the French-Canadian theatre director Robert Lepage has been appointed to develop the special effects. It is not the first time they have worked together. When Lepage designed Gabriel's 1993 tour, "The Secret World", Gabriel burst out of a lit phone booth singing "Come Talk to Me" with a cable like an umbilical chord slowly pulling him back into the booth before the lights went out.

When Lepage staged Seven Streams of Ota at the National Theatre in London, the audience was transported from Japan to a tenement in New York without a scene change simply by the ingenious use of light and screen and blackout.

And mud filled the stage at the same theatre when Lepage staged A Midsummer Night's Dream. The inspiration for that came from parish records from 1595, the year Shakespeare wrote the play, which revealed that it was the year of mud.

Mud will also feature in Gabriel's CD-Rom game, Eve, which will be projected on computer screens. In the game Adam and Eve slip and fall and wrestle their way through what Gabriel calls "this post-industrial landscape" but they have the power to plant trees and bluebell glades in the mud and regain paradise.

A star-studded list of talking heads helps them to reach their goal. For example, Robin Skinner, the psychologist who wrote Families and How to Survive Them with John Cleese, pops up to hand out marital advice. And paintings and sculptures from the late Helen Chadwick and from Kathy de Montraux and Nils Udo can be manipulated and altered on screen. You can also dub and cut your own tunes from the various artists that Gabriel records on his World Music label.

And how will Gabriel deal with the Dome? The theme, he says, will be "M for Millennium and also M for Empowerment. People will come into the dome and experience this assault on their senses and get ideas to realise more of who or what they want to be. I'm the catalyst.

From being a Dome sceptic Gabriel now describes himself as a realistic optimist. "If there is a project that can pump a bit of excitement into the big depressed sponge that is the core of English negativity, then it will be worth doing. A climate that encourages and frees ideas and good thinking." There is a good New Year's resolution.