‘Perpetual Light’ by Jessica Curry at Old Vic Tunnels

Perpetual Light: Requiem for an Unscorched Earth. By Jessica Curry. A new choral work about the triumph of humanity over destruction


Perpetual Light: Requiem for an Unscorched Earth is a new choral work by Jessica Curry that fuses music, film and installation to create an emotionally charged, unique experience. It is a profoundly moving piece that remembers those who lost their lives in nuclear conflicts. Once again, we live in the shadow of the bomb. Fear of rogue states and terrorism have replaced the Cold War stand-off and a new apocalyptic atomic vision is now upon us. Despite this, we have not destroyed ourselves: we are still here. Perpetual Light celebrates our extraordinary will to survive, delivering a powerful message of hope.

Composer and Artistic Director: Jessica Curry
Performed by Londinium
Film and installation by Jo Fairfax
Produced by Sarah Ellis
In association with The Albany

Saturday 4 June 2011   3.30pm and 7.30pm

The Old Vic Tunnels
Leake Street

we queue to get, in deciphering the graffiti and reading the programme notes while trying to keep our noses tight against the insistent stink of pigeon poo.

when let in, we come into a an underground hollow space of sound – an atomic kind of of difficult buzz – more than a drone sound and suggestive of an audio equivalent of glowing radioactivity perhaps. and definitely and surely composed – its cadences moving us toward fiercer intensity and insistence.

it is unclear where we are supposed to be in the space and with everyone there is a feeling of needing to rush to be in the right place after the queuing. there is a largeish area with candles burning and white glowing rings set into the new cement that becomes a second holding area. beside this is a cavern hung with white-lighted model planes suspended in a grid of rows above us and above a shrine-ish area with a funereal-looking box and two more glassed-in burning candles.

we queue again and wait to get through to the live performance area.

we are let through to a third area of rowed seats facing the two rows of the twenty singers that are Londinium, an a cappella choir.  behind them a large screen is showing faint shadowing waves which remind me of the ghostly echo of static waves out of an old fashioned tv screen.

the music has grown and expanded in complexity and heat – some of the sounds are barely endurable. we are pleased to be seated waiting and, watching a looped video of two woman’s eyes above and apparently watching a landscape from which two bright missiles are fired across a trajectory that neatly traces this witness’s eyes before flying inexorably away to explode somewhere, someone, out of sight, only to rise again, and again. in front of this image is a spiral design that reminds of the calibration of target finder or the unfurling of a fern or the carved eyes of a less modern totem to territory and domination.  watching, we are able to meditate on the ugly potency of our warfare and weaponry.

the music the choir make is exquisite. complex and interwoven and still sounding simple and urgent and sad.  it is a sublime experience to sit in this dark tunnel with the constant sonic rumbling of the trains over our heads like some omnipresent thundering of storms gathering, and fall inside this music. sometimes i found myself admiring. sometimes i felt a complicated array of thoughts and feelings and sensations. mostly i was just able to be in it.

(which means that the traces i might have to make this memory with are too ghostly and ephemeral to pin down here in a more specifically recounted record.)

after the concert we wandered back into the candle-lit adjoining tunnels and i was overcome with a surge of deep sadness.  standing in this newly activated shrine i felt physically and emotionally charged.

an exceptional experience for sure. *****

show seen: 4th June 2011


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