Periplum is led by founders and artistic directors Claire Raftery & Damian Wright, who design, write & direct all of the company’s work.
Formed in 1999, Periplum create extraordinary audience experiences through ground-breaking site-responsive & outdoor theatre performance.
The company deliver highly visual, socially significant and emotionally explosive work for all the senses, creating large and mid-scale touring productions for festivals, and heritage, participatory & educational projects for unique location-specific events. 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 believe that through performance transformation can take place.
We have had work commissioned & funded by the National Theatre of England, the British Museum, the British Council, the BBC, Arts Council England, Brighton Festival, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Conaculta Mexico, The Anglo Mexican Foundation, Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, Without Walls Street Arts Consortium, MALTA Festival (Poland), Uijeongbu Music and Theatre Festival (South Korea) 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, Best Event Liverpool Echo Awards 2019, Best Event Sunderland 2018 for Fireflight (Culture Awards), Best Event Teeside 2014 for Homecoming (Journal Culture Awards) 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 we present our first show on 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. 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, composed the visual storyline. The instruments were hung from the ceiling and swung like pendulums, evoking 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 and 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. The show marks the beginning of a new approach to 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.
'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 part of the National Theatre’s outdoor programme in 2006 and 2007 and toured nationally & internationally to 2010.
‘The Bell’ (2007) depicts a war-torn land with surround action in and around the audience. The public are called upon to help re-raise a land reduced to rubble. With successful UK and 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 and performance as part of the award-winning Enchanted Parks event in Gateshead. We performed a twisted fairytale 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 personal revolutions through 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 restoration.
'The Art of Demonstration'
In 2012 Periplum begins its explorations into performance and protest with a residency and performance at the University of Winchester campus. Reprised later in the year at South Hill Park, the 'Art of Demonstration' audience are encouraged to 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 '45 Revolutions Per Moment' has spun off from '1000 Revolutions', creating a sonic treasure hunt with 40 Peckham artists for the Elephant and The Nun festival and secret gigs at The Great Escape across Brighton.
'La Campana' is the finale of the 25th Stockton International Riverside Festival as we’re joined by our Mexican comadres and compadres.
Back to Wonderland
2013: 'Imaginarium' is a new touring installation leading audiences down a digital rabbit-hole to a world of old school parlour games. It goes on to deck the lawns of festivals across England.
2014: The Art of Demonstration has evolved into #WeAreAllSpartacus. A new spectacle where audience become activists, the show transforms public space into a controlled environment overseen by Caesar Security, and encourages the audience to build a new movement, hack the system, find a voice and create change.
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. ‘How do you fix a broken instrument?’ You play…
Later in the year, 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 during World War One.
The ‘Homecoming’ tour culminates in an emotional finale marking 100 years since the bombardment of Hartlepool’s Headland.
'451' is a new outdoor spectacle of burning books and exploding ideas made in 2015. Ray Bradbury’s visionary nightmare becomes an immersive reality and tours to UK and international festivals.
Through 2016’s Reading the Riot Act, the story of the Stoke pottery riots is brought to life in an abandoned library, transformed to become a coal mine, a 19th century home and a picket-line. Digital silent films lead audiences through a child’s eye view of social upheaval.
Meanwhile, we create the symphonic 'Batley Picture Show' with outdoor projections and a live score weaving down the Golden Mile. Local people’s home movies become the stuff of cinematic dreams.
Midnight in the 7th Alley
Messages-in-Bottles begin to magically appear on the doorsteps of residents in East Hull, lovingly made and delivered by horse-and-carriage. The magical midnight portal of the 7th alley has opened. In 2017, we create '7 Alleys', a spectacle based on local legends of Bubblegum Boy, the ghost freight train, and the White Lady. 13,000 locals attend this inaugural Act of Wonder for the Hull UK City of Culture project: Land of Green Ginger.
Elsewhere, Periplum win the Best Event Sunderland award for 'Fireflight' in The Journal Culture awards, launching the new Fire Station arts venue with the journey of a flame through the city’s history.
Deeds not words
In 2018, we create the major new production 'The Glass Ceiling’ to mark the 100th anniversary of the vote being awarded to some British women. The show travels across the Tees Valley, inviting audiences to break down all glass ceilings.
We take up residency at Sura Medura in Sri Lanka, creating a trail of 52 postcards with a poem in Sinhalese and a ‘Wish-you-were-here’ tree on Hikkaduwa Beach. The same year, ‘451’ plays at Uijeongbu Theatre Music Festival in South Korea.
2019. With a rumble of thunder, 'The Witching Hour' begins. Periplum’s homage to people’s parks and the magic of twilight draws in 15,000 people in Birkenhead Park for Wirral’s Borough of Culture year and East Park, Hull. ‘Odyssey' is created later in the year as part of the Mayflower 400 festival.
In 2020, the world is simultaneously brought closer together and pushed further apart by a pandemic. We learn that dreams are an essential part of survival, and so the dream goes on.
Periplum has received commissions and funding from:
Partners for Periplum’s Learning & Participation projects have included: