I'm thoroughly enraptured by the work of French performance art and puppetry troupe Royal de Luxe. Their May 2006 performance in London, The Sultan's Elephant, was nothing short of genius ~ I can't even imagine the glory of being in attendance at the event, which included a little girl Giantess, a wooden rocket-ship, and a 50-ton mechanical elephant.
And now I've just heard that they've done it again... Writer R.J. Evans posted a blog about a new performance that took place starting June 6th in Nantes ~ the birthplace of Jules Verne ~ that involved a giant deep-sea diver, Le Scaphandrier in French.
I've always been a lover of puppets and marionettes, so to see a 30-foot-tall diver hauled out of the water by a team of frock-coated puppeteers, and then sent out adventuring, just blisses me out.
And there's a beautiful and complex mythology, too, for these amazingly emotive characters, that's been unfolding around Europe for years in various performances - about how the Diver is searching for his niece the Little Giantess, a character from the Sultan's Elephant performance. With the help of Google's nifty translation engine, you can read more about the back-story on Stéfan Le Dû's blog.
The company is rather mysterious and rarely releases information before a performance, adding to the intrigue. But you can find some jaw-dropping YouTube videos, along with a Flickr pool filled with lovely images from the performance.
It's one of those things that makes me happy to be alive, that there are people out there creating such things. We humans may be making war, and reality TV shows, but we're also making street spectacles with grand mechanical creatures, simply for the sake of wonder and magic and art.
Also keep an eye out for the off-shoot company of brilliant fabricators La Machine. They built the original sultan's elephant, and they were also the ones who sent a massive wooden and steel mechanical spider called La Princesse marauding around Liverpool in a post-apocalyptic frenzy, to the delight of onlookers, for week in September 2008 before moving on to Yokohama.
La Machine also built the permanent exhibition Machines of the Isle of Nantes at its workshop, which is open to the public, features the elephant giving rides, and includes a mechanical squid.
Glorious. Simply glorious.