Water Fools & The Dreamers

As in previous years the festival opened with a bang. Set on Willen Lake, just after sunset, the French company Ilotopie presented their dreamscape, Fous de Bassin (Water Fools). I sat down on the bank of the lake with my family, surrounding by hundreds of people not quite knowing what to expect. It starts with a floating car driving out into the middle of the ‘stage’ before catching fire! Two characters climb out of the car and one walks across the water as more characters and structures begin to appear. To be honest I thought it was really slow to start as at this point they were all quite normal characters… a lady with her baby crossing the scene, a dustbin man releasing lamppost in order to create a set… a man on a giant bed floating into a tree?

At this point, things got weird. Gradually the scene morphed from the fairly normal to the distinctly abnormal. Imagine a king with rosy cheeks, a powdered white face, wearing nothing but a metal box to preserve his dignity… from which he flung handfuls of glitter whilst on a motorised gondola with a rather creepy jester… Yep. That happened.

Fire was introduced as the production progressed with fireworks, pyrotechnics set on boats and two men in their own gondolas dropping small bowls of fire into the water to burn on the lake’s surface. The most spectacular part of the show was when one of these men, adorned with a huge set of beautifully white, feather wings, set fire to said wings with the fire spreading from the bottom right to the tips with burning feathers floating away across the water to leave nothing but the wire frame.

Even though the show was spectacular, it received quite a mixed reception and to be honest it wasn’t my cup of tea. As with marmite, people either loved it or really rather didn’t. Whilst I was in the latter group I  spoke to a good many people in the former who thought the whole thing brilliant, if rather bonkers.

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Whilst this only lasted the first weekend, IMAG0222the festival was not short of things that lasted the week. This included Lucie Lom’s statues, Les Reveurs (The Dreamers). Rising from the earth on the very first day, with no explanation and no warning, the figures caused quite a stir. Throughout the week groups of the figures appeared in different spaces, moving from the train station through the centre of Milton Keynes down to Campbell Park, and each time they prompted discussion as to who they were. Stories began to circulate as to who they were and where they were going…

On the final day of the festival a final tableau was created in Campbell Park. Having stumbled across them all week I was blown away by the final part of the story. The figures lead down to a pond, sinking back into the earth from whence they came…

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