For our July Cog Night we were excited for a collaboration between three of our clients. We visited Lift Festival’s Sun & Sea, at the Albany, in Lewisham – the Mayor of London’s Borough of Culture. Emily gives her verdict.
On a boiling hot day, in the height of the British summer, we went to the beach. In Deptford.
Sun & Sea, the indoor-beach-opera, is performed on a continuous loop over the course of a day – each loop lasting about an hour.
It was Lithuania’s entry for the 2019 Venice Biennale, and went on to win the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. Since winning, it has travelled the world, picking up buzz as it went, so much buzz that this run ended up completely selling out about half way through.
We were informed that the room was intentionally warm (the performers were in trunks and bikinis after all), although this did really add to the authenticity of the show.
The set, which was teeming with beach-goers, had our full attention from the offset. We didn’t quite know where to look, or who to look at.
We craned our heads and moved around the auditorium to try and work out who was singing.
We were onlookers, watching groups of friends on the beach laughing and playing games – as if completely unaware of the aria being performed next to them.
There were dogs and children, ex-pats and couples, one guy who sat by himself and ate a whole meal – I wondered if he did that on every loop.
The cast seemed able to freely excuse themselves from the set at any given moment. Often returning with cups of tea and snacks, or wet – they’d been in the sea.
We didn’t know what was choreographed and what wasn’t, but that added to the charm and authenticity of it all.
To call this piece an opera seems quite misleading. It was like no opera i’ve ever seen before.
Perhaps the only similarity to opera (bar the singing, which was mostly operatic), was that it was quite hard to follow what was going on without the libretto (lyrics). Luckily QR codes were dotted around the room giving us the keys we needed to unlock the piece.
The sunbathers sang about mundane, everyday things…
– So what time in the morning is your flight?
– It’s quarter past seven
One beach-goer was clearly unimpressed with the dog:
– What’s wrong with people – they come here with their dogs, who leave shit on the beach, fleas in the sand!
The point of the piece is to comment on our relationship with the planet. In this case it did live up to our expectations.
One woman seemed inconvenienced by disappearing coral reefs; her son wanted to see them when he got older. By contrast, two younger beach-goers sang of their despair when they learned the corals will be gone.
This piece was best enjoyed by letting it wash over you in the lazy mode you would observe things on a day at the beach. Very different to the expectations some of us associate with traditional opera, but many of our team found lots to enjoy in the details and the message.
When Sun & Sea inevitably popups somewhere new – do check it out.