Periplum produce ground-breaking site-responsive & outdoor theatre performance, making work that is narrative-led and content-driven while bringing the intimacy of human drama into shows of a spectacular scale.
In collaboration with composers, designers, engineers & pyrotechnicians, the company deliver highly visual, socially significant and emotionally explosive work for all the senses. The company produce large and mid-scale touring productions for festivals, and also specialise in heritage, participatory & educational projects, creating unique location-specific events.
Formed in 1999 by Artistic Directors Claire Raftery and Damian Wright, Periplum place equal emphasis on all elements of performance – innovative visual design, original text, specially commissioned music & quality acting. We explore dynamic staging that responds to & visually transforms environments, offering an intense & interactive experience through 360 degree surround performance and promenading formats.
Whether detailing the delirium of a fevered mind or the vast workings of a social revolution, we seek to offer rare and extraordinary experiences in the belief that through performance transformation can take place.
We have had work commissioned & funded by the National Theatre, the British Museum, the British Council, the BBC, Arts Council England, Brighton Festival, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Conaculta Mexico, Without Walls Street Arts Consortium, and many local authorities, festivals & venues across the UK.
Accolades & nominations for our work include multiple Guardian Critics’ Choice awards, the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe First and the Pierre de Coubertin prize for Best Creative Cultural project for education in the Cultural Olympiad. The company have toured acclaimed productions & education projects across the UK, Europe, Asia & Latin America.
From Underland to Wonderland
1999: eve of a new millennium, and Periplum launches its first offering in the crooked-floored bar cellar of The Levellers’ Metway Studios in Brighton. ‘Artaud in Wonderland’ is a fantastical study of the Theatre of Cruelty’s creator. Swinging lanterns illuminate the dying madman’s defiant dreams. Poor of means yet rich in content, this is the first example of our trademark display of maximum imagination using minimum resources. The show toured until 2010.
Music & Magick
2001: ‘Rasputin’ is a study of the intense relationship the ‘mad monk’ had with Russia’s doomed monarchy. A family of string instruments, issuing forth like Russian dolls from a double bass, form the visual storyline by suggestion. Hung from the ceiling and swung like pendulums, they evoke machineries of oncoming revolution and war in a world teetering towards disaster.
In 2002 we tour China: UK ambassadors at both Beijing and Wuhan International Festivals of Culture with special performances & parades. We work with Beijing International School students to create a performance for UN-day celebrations before going on to British Council-sponsored shows in Chongqing.
With 2003’s site-specific ‘Crowley’ we become UK representatives in the Aurora Nova International Festival, converting a church’s vaults especially for a 40-show run. Our explorations into the imagery of mental and physical explosions and sounds of world travel are the beginning of a new direction towards intelligent spectacle.
Reaching for the Light
In 2004 we collaborate with 60 choir singers and 15 performers to produce Rising, an outdoor site-specific audio-visual spectacle for the National Streets Arts Festival.
Lighting up the sky with ominous embers, Arquiem (2005) is inspired by a murder ballad, and explores public space and entertainment as primal spectacle. The crowd becomes a mob witnessing the execution of a boy who murdered his love. With powerful performances and intense visuals, the show is a hit of the National Theatre’s outdoor programme in 2006 & 2007 and toured nationally & internationally to 2010.
2007: in response to world events of recent years, our new spectacle ‘The Bell’ depicts a war-torn land with detonations & high-octane action in and around the audience. The public are called upon en masse to help re-raise a land reduced to rubble. With successful UK & international touring, The Bell continues to toll.
Extending our educational work through residencies in Mexico in Autumn 2008, we work with 90 local performers to create site-specific performances at a roofless church in Mexico City and a derelict coffee plantation in Vera Cruz.
‘Globe’ (2008) is a site-responsive interactive installation & performance as part of the award- winning Enchanted Parks event in Gateshead. Attended by 10,000 locals over 10 nights, our performance was a twisted fairytale delight drawing on local social history and the iconic Saltwell Towers.
Beneath the Pavement, the beat…
2009: we create a new city-specific performance trail. Inspired by the transformational power of music. 1000 revolutions per moment leads audiences to become protagonists and discover their own revolutions in urban explorations of UK towns and cities. 1000rpm also gives rise to the music-fuelled interactive pop video – Jump to Coda (2010). The turntable turns and the turbines burn.
Viva La Campana
In 2010 we begin our adventures with University of Winchester’s flagship Street Arts BA, commissioned to make ‘Subverse’, a site-specific performance for the National Submarine Museum. ‘Take a deep breath & follow the bubble to the surface…’
Later in the year we embark on large-scale touring in Europe before setting sail for Mexico. Commissioned by the National Government to form an Anglo-Mexican company, we take La Campana across 8 states from Queretaro to Campeche as part of national celebrations marking 100 years of the Revolution and 200 years of Independence.
2011: We’re commissioned to make The Traveller by the British Museum, a reworking of the Egyptian Book of the Dead for a special exhibition, collaborating with students of 5 universities.
Navigator is a first foray into digital, creating parallel universes with our iPods. Audience are led through hidden doorways and time portals on intimate journeys to mystery liaisons. From ‘Magnifying Sherlock’ at the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection to secret gigs in the parks of North Kensington, Navigator is commissioned 7 times in 2 years.
The same year we take up residency at the magnificent Winter Gardens of Blackpool, creating special performances for the Opera House, the Empress Ballroom, the Pavilion Theatre and Baronial Hall, evoking the many entertainers who performed at this heritage venue to mark its heritage restoration.
The Art of Demonstration
In 2012 Periplum begins its explorations into protest with a residency/occupation & performance at 9 below zero on the University of Winchester campus. Reprised later in the year at South Hill Park, the Art of Demonstration audience are led to break out of Big Day Out Festival and with the aid of agents in the crowd, stage their own personal demonstrations across the site.
We create Lumen 158 for New Theatre Royal Portsmouth to mark the beginning of this grand old venue’s renovation, taking audiences on a digital & physical journey to meet the stars that played here.
Meanwhile 45rpm has spun off from 1000 revolutions, creating a sonic treasure hunt with 40 Peckham artists for the Elephant & the Nun festival and secret gigs at The Great Escape across Brighton.
The Bell/La Campana is the finale of the 25th Stockton International Riverside Festival as we’re joined by our Mexican compadres & comadres.
Back to Wonderland
2013: Travelling in a bell tent, the Imaginarium is a new touring installation leading you down a digital rabbit-hole to old school gaming. It goes on to deck the lawns of festivals across England.
2014: The Art of Demonstration has morphed to #WeAreAllSpartacus. A new audience-as-activist psychological spectacle, #Spartacus sees public space controlled by Caesar Security before The Movement hacks the system and unleashes chaos. Hundreds of Kirk Douglii parade from Portsmouth’s Guildhall steps.
Also in 2014, Periplum is commissioned by the British Council and Greenwich & Docklands International Festival to work with the National Theatre of Libya, making a special site-specific performance for the Olympic Park. Asking the question: ‘How do you fix a broken instrument?’ You play…
The Remembering Our War Tees Valley consortium commissions Periplum to make 5 bespoke large-scale performances for 5 towns, telling stories of local people from the homefront and the front-line.
The tour culminates in a major event in Hartlepool marking 100 years since the bombardment of Hartlepool’s Headland, an emotional finale.
451 (2015) is a new outdoor spectacle of burning books, exploding ideas & spinning wheels. Bradbury’s visionary nightmare becomes an immersive reality and tours to UK festivals.
Periplum has received commissions and funding from:
Partners for Periplum’s Learning & Participation projects have included: