Archive for the ‘Son et Lumiere Greenwich’ Category

Son et Lumiere 1958

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

We’ve talked about son et lumiere shows before – Greenwich was the first British place to host such an event – in 1957. An idea born in France in 1952, it’s still a really popular summer thing to do across the channel; even in more northern (and therefore British-weather-ish) places like Amiens, where they have the most amazing light show over the cathedral entrance, showing the carved stone statues as they would have looked in medieval times. But over here, they tend to be sporadic events if they happen at all.

We had one a couple of years ago, and it was brilliant – with the light show projected off the Queen’s House:

and I really hoped that it would be the start of a new interest, but nothing else has happened since. Fireworks, nice though they are, are not the same. And if they come with music, they never seem to be connected with it – the bangs come at all the wrong moments.

I came across this old brochure for the 1958 Son et Lumiere, the year after the triumphant first British outing, which implies that they were hoping it would become an annual event. Charles Laughton is back on narration duty and the London Philharmonic is doing the strings thing again. Even the script is much the same – the history of Greenwich, with marching Romans, ravishing Danes and taxing Normans – it’s just expanded.

It cost a fairly hefty 5/- to get in, and I can’t help thinking it must have been hard to keep the local urchins from climbing railings etc. and get a free view, but it must have been quite a show. I wonder if anyone took any pictures?

Technology has advanced so far now that we are used to seeing mega-screens and outdoor cinema. But son et lumiere is different. It’s a piece of created, site-specific art, and I think it’s not been yet been exhausted as a form.

I guess in these days of cuts it’s not something we’re likely to see again soon, even in this year of all manner of celebration, but I rather wish someone would give Greenwich son et lumiere another run for its money.

Son et Lumiere

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I can’t believe the amount of festivity, celebration and general things-to-do in the next few months. Greenwich & Docklands Festival the Create festival, which I don’t quite understand but wholly applaud, the general Henry VIII celebrations centred around the Old Royal Naval College plus shows, picnics, open studios, free screenings – not least, I should mention in particular, that Bubble Theatre’s promenade extravaganzas are back after a stormy time with the Arts Council – book your tickets for The Odyssey now… It’s definitely summertime – you name the diversion, it’s on.

But the one thing that has really caught my eye is something that is so much fun on the surface that no one seems to have bothered to look behind the concept to find that Greenwich has yet another historical precedent…

Whilst trying to find the website for the Son et Lumiere being presented as part of the Greenwich & Docklands Festival, it popped back into my head that Greenwich was the very first place in Britain to stage such an event – in 1957, projected onto ‘Greenwich Palace’ – I’m assuming that means the Queen’s House.

It sounds as though it was quite a production. It seems as though Laurence Olivier was one of five actors involved and John Hotchkis composed it, but I can’t find any more information than that about it. The University of Kent at Canterbury holds a theatre programme that advertises it – the ref is UKC/PRG/READ/SON GRE : F173078, if you’re interested…

This year, from the publicity graphics, at least, implies that the same ‘screen’ will be used this time. It will have live music – Handel’s Water Music – first performed on a barge down the river Thames, celebrating the composer’s 250th anniversary, a light/video show and spoken word (hope there’s not too much of the latter; I want to hear the music…)

It starts quite late – 10.00pm – but if it’s a fine evening it should be an incredible experience.