Belfast is Happening, thanks to a multi-faceted experience from Prime Cut
Immersive street artist Wil St Leger is a slippery customer. At least, he is when it comes to his collaboration on Prime Cut’s theatrical audio-visual event Kaleidoscope on Thursday, March 28 in Belfast City Centre.
‘I’m not giving anything away,’ he laughs, when pressed about exactly what contribution he had made to the Belfast streets as part of a ‘magical, multi-sensory experience’ that aims to ‘re-imagine the city using the voice of the people’.
St Leger does reveal is that he provides ‘certain visual clues to particular things that will be happening. Some people will see them, but some people won’t. Some people who aren’t even taking part might see the clues.’
If you are in the Kaleidoscope audience, you do get a heads-up with a map decorated with relevant icons. St Leger explains. ‘They won’t tell people what’s going to happen, but will give a clue. Like a treasure map’.
Guided by the map and audio the Kaleidoscope audience will be take part in what St Leger calls ‘not just a show, a Happening’. The aim is to use music, visual art (St Leger’s contribution) and recorded stories, gathered by Prime Cut, Leger and director Louise Lowe through nine months of community engagement with people from all over Belfast, to give the participants a glimpse into the possible inner life of the people, places and streets that they pass.
‘We just sent people out with headphones,’ St Leger says. ‘They came back with a record of all the things they saw, and now we feed that into the audience.’
It does sound that Kaleidoscope feeds well into St Leger’s own body of work. An artistic activist St Leger’s work has evolved from street art that attempts to convey a message, to artistic street theatre that offers ownership to the audience.
‘I think maybe I am unique in my approach to street art,’ St Leger says thoughtfully. ‘My work is skewed towards participation. It often requires the audience to participate.’
Some of St Leger’s past works include filling the Dublin sculpture Molly Malone’s famous cart with ‘Bertie Bills’ bearing the face of Bertie Ahern, free for passersby to grab and ‘Landmine Trial’ where he left stencilled landmines around Dublin. The piece that kicked off his interest in the theatre of street art, however, was Art Raid during the 2007 Dublin Fringe Festival.
‘It was about 60 stencilled pieces, and it was arranged like a gallery show,’ St Leger explains. ‘The audience was told that at some time during the night an alarm would go off, and they’d have 20 seconds to grab a stencil they liked and make their escape from the building before they were caught.’
Art Raid proved so successful that St Leger was invited to stage it again, at a theatre festival this time.
‘My job is to subvert people’s journey through their day, to make them feel things differently,’ he says. ‘We get bombarded by so much information that, I think, sometimes we forget how wonderful the people and places around us are.’
And that is exactly what he hopes Kaleidoscope will remind people about both the people of Belfast and the city itself. It is St Leger’s first project with Prime Cut, although he has been doing workshops with them since 2007, but not his last. It’s not even the only one this year.
St Leger is also working on the multi-production company collaboration Conquest of Happiness that will be taking place in Derry~Londonderry later this year as part of the City of Culture celebrations. With contributions from Prime Cut, Bosnian theatre company East West Theatre and Slovenia’s Mladinsko Theatre and 12 artists and performers who have been working together for over a year, it’s an even bigger production than Kaleidoscope.
St Leger’s aims, however. remain the same: ‘To get people thinking.’
Kaleidoscope takes place in Belfast City Centre on Thursday, March 28