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Issue:- 26 April  2012

Liverpool’s Sea Odyssey 2012 - Part 1
Report by L Trollope & photos on this page by Patrick Trollope

FROM 20 April to 22 April 2012, Liverpool has been privileged to host a very evocative event staged to commemorate the centenary of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Although she was neither built on nor sailed from Liverpool, her owners, the White Star Line had its main office here and many of her crew and passengers were local so her loss was very significant to the region. This event was the splendid Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular, provided by Royal de Luxe, an extraordinary French street theatre company, based in Nantes. Its founder, Jean Luc Courcoult, was inspired to begin this venture after reading a letter in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum, when he visited the city in 2006. This letter had been written by 10 year old May Mc Murray to her father, William, who sailed as a steward on board Titanic. Unfortunately, it was too late to reach the ship so was returned and keep by her family. M. Courcoult recognised its potential and subsequently was asked to develop it, in time for it to be part of this City’s commemorations. The spectacular has been seen by millions, both the estimated million who flocked from near and far to witness it first hand, and by the many more who have, or will, watch it on TV or internet.

It was a thrilling and inspiring performance and comprised three giant figures; the Diver Uncle; the little girl; and her loveable dog, which accompanied her. These puppets are a marvel of construction. The vision necessary to create them and their story is immense. Little Girl is nearly 30 ft. and weighs 800kg. She is made of poplar and lime wood, and steel. She can reach 2.5 Km per hour. She seemed to be forlornly scanning the crowd and making eye contact, as she walked along or travelled in her boat, with water surging beneath. (The boats did perhaps seem a little incongruous, but no matter.) Uncle is approximately 50 ft. and weighs in at a whopping 2.5 tonnes, is fashioned from the same materials and manages just 1 KmPH. He made his maximum impact perhaps was when he scooped his niece onto his knee at their reunion on Saturday.  Both figures have locks made of horse hair and eyes that are made of street lamps, with lashes of broom bristles! Xolo, the dog is a fantastic creature, a mobile sculpture at 9 ft. and 200 Kg. His structure comprised steel and papier mache. His antics appealed to all as he trotted along, sometimes diverting to lick children in the crowd, even deigning to give a few rides on his back. Whoever devised his programme had an obvious knowledge of endearing canine traits. When not travelling around, he often entertained the crowds by gambolling around in free play, and could reach speeds of 4 KmPH. Anyone who has ever tried wrestling with a marionette and endeavouring to keep it moving without entangling its strings, will appreciate the skills of the Lilliputians, the puppeteers all attired in red robes, and also will be astounded at their great physical prowess and stamina as they heaved and hauled their charges this way and that, moving with great agility and often at considerable speed! Little girl had 22 operatives and Xolo, 20: Uncle required 40+, some of which clambered up his conveyance and leapt down in bunches, repeating this at a frenetic pace all the time he walked. Less obvious, but vital, were the teams of mechanics who kept things moving very efficiently throughout.


The story line is of the Little Girl and her faithful hound, who ranged all over, looking for her Uncle, a diver, who in turn was seeking her. On Friday, they trudged in opposite directions so missing each other. Uncle had emerged from King’s Dock around 9.30 having returned from his deep ocean dive to discover and bury his brother who was trapped on Titanic as she sank and also brought a trunk of letters back with him. He was hoisted onto his boat thence to travel across the nearby streets, until he took his siesta by St George’s Hall. In the afternoon he went to Stanley Park, watching in vain for his niece. Meanwhile, Little Girl and Xolo traversed from Stanley Park to Everton Brow, where she was able to overlook the city below. She rested for a few hours before restarting her trek into the city , via St George’s Plateau, until she eventually reached her bed at King’s Dock where, after a little dance and a whimsical smile, she and her dog fell asleep , snoring gently.

On Saturday, Uncle wended his way back into town and King’s Dock, with various adventures en route including standing on Liverpool’s renowned Chinese Arch. Little Girl toured the environs of the waterfront and nearby streets, resting in the afternoon at Pier Head in her deckchair, in the sunshine, before resuming her travels which led, eventually, to King’s Dock. It was a very emotional moment when the 2 giants were finally re-united. Uncle took his niece into his arms and then sat her on his knee whilst Xolo pranced around with joy. They spent the night at King’s Dock, in preparation for the final circuits of the Waterfront areas before setting off out into the Mersey on Sunday. 100 Letters selected from some 600 written as a project by members of the public, aged from 8 to 80 years; and purporting to be to or from the crew and passengers of Titanic, were fired from a cannon before their departure.

Many Congratulations; to the creator and his wonderful team; builders, aerialists, crane- drivers and puppeteers and many others, including the musicians who added greatly to the atmosphere throughout this amazing performance. Thanks also to Culture Liverpool and Liverpool City Council for their continued vision and determination to keep our City in the fore, and to maintain its City of Culture momentum. Despite the cost, hopefully this will have been money well spent both from the tourist and travel perspective and in Liverpool’s enhanced profile, now and in the future. The stalwart band of volunteers who helped the organisation and provided the rolling barrier between public and performers throughout, deserve our grateful acknowledgement, as do the numerous stewards who strove valiantly to keep large enthusiastic crowds safely in place, overwhelmingly with great good humour, albeit with the occasional bursts from a few who seemed a little power mad under the strain. Also, to the usual behind the scenes essentials without whose assistance events like this would not be possible: including street cleaners, the Fire Brigade, Ambulance crews and other emergency services, including the Red Cross, who gave their usual professional help. Finally to the Police who capably acquitted their role with patience and goodwill, a fact which did not go uncommented on by the general public. At times their skilful control in keeping the busy city traffic flowing was like watching a complex ballet and an entertainment in itself!

This appears to have been a most successful venture, greatly enjoyed by many, and has been thought provoking as well.

Our report continues within next week's edition with a large video and lots more photos, but please enjoy the photographs in this weeks edition for now.

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Here’s to Liverpool’s next giant adventure!!!

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