The Dome's Show: inspired by Blake, approved by Blair

'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom' William Blake, 1793
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The Independent Online
WILLIAM BLAKE, whose poem "Jerusalem" is belted out regularly at Labour Party conferences, has cemented his status as the party's secular saint. Blake's interpretation of Man's fall from grace is to be the focal point of daily theatrical shows in the Millennium Dome.

Tony Blair is said to have personally approved the show's details, some of which will be announced today by New Millennium Experience, the company commissioned to build and operate the Dome.

The 20-minute spectacle, directed by Mark Fisher, an architect who has designed sets for rock bands including the Rolling Stones, will be staged eight times a day throughout 2000.

The show features troupes of acrobats who will descend from the roof of the Dome and rise up on invisible threads. The musical score has been written by Peter Gabriel, a former member of the band Genesis.

Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden will be played out according to Blake's interpretation in his 1795 collection Songs of Innocence and Experience. Man's fallen state will be illustrated by the "dark satanic mills" from "Jerusalem".

There will be an angelic chorus on a high wire 35 metres above the audience - appropriately enough, since the Romantic poet spent much of his time communing with angels and demons and hearing the voices of Biblical prophets. Blake, regarded by some as a visionary, by others as a lunatic, lived from 1757 to 1827 and said he was visited by God at his home in Lambeth, south London. He was inspired to write his vast poem, Milton, he said, after the 17th-century poet's spirit came into his back garden and entered his body via his left foot.

The Dome show will be slightly more prosaic, including circus acts such as fire walking, juggling and sword swallowing, as well as daredevil acrobatics. (When auditioning, Mr Fisher turned down performers unwilling to bungee jump.) Lighting designers will re-create images from Blake's poem "Tyger tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night", familiar to generations of schoolchildren.

The choice of Blake as a source of literary and spiritual inspiration will raise some eyebrows. One critic memorably observed that, "His work is only intermittently readable and then in small quantities."

For others the whole experience may well provoke a huge yawn. Research published today reveals that three-quarters of British adults think the Dome is a waste of time, and money.

Research from CIA Medianetwork shows 67 per cent of UK adults think the Dome, centrepiece of the 2000 celebrations, is a financial white elephant.

And those in northern England and Scotland are most dismissive, with 70 per cent thinking the pounds 758m structure in Greenwich, south-east London, not worth the cash.

According to the survey of 500 people, 90 per cent believe it is at least partly being funded by the taxpayer, though it is actually being paid for by sponsors and the National Lottery.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

Tyger Tyger,

Review, page 9