One of the delights of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival is the trepidation of attending a show without quite knowing what it will bring, and discovering a gem.
Signal at Dusk is just one of those situations. Described in the festival programme as a landscape opera featuring 20 long-throw speakers and four live sopranos on Great Yarmouth beach, I’m not sure anyone attending had much idea of what they were walking in to.
Or rather walking through – the performance spanned a one kilometre stretch of beach, shingle, and marram grass at the north end of the town’s golden beaches, with the audience slowly progressing along the waterfront with gentle guidance from Dutch creators Jeroen Strijbos and Rob van Rijswijk.
While available during the day as an unguided installation with just recorded sound, the Signal at Dusk performances added in four live sopranos, kitted out in matching macs and loudhailers, wandering through the crowds and adding relaxing, chilling, and comforting vocals to the mix of foghorns and choral performances sliding out through the speakers.
The journey was not just in space but also through multiple languages and through light and time, as the sunshine faded from a warm summer’s day to a chillier evening throng, kept warm by the people at your side and the movement over the dunes.
It’s hard to know what, if anything, the experience was meant to say but as an experience and an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the coast and the power of the human voice, it was a sublime and enchanting evening.
The piece ended down by the sea, with the music fading and the coated choir disappearing off into the distance, leaving us with just the gentle swell of breaking waves on the shoreline – a peaceful and powerful conclusion.
- The Norfolk & Norwich Festival runs from 13-29 May 2022. For more information visit www.nnfestival.org.uk.