Liverpool Life Chaos. I’m standing on Lime Street in Liverpool outside an Irish-American pub with the Statue of Liberty on the exterior and all around people are scattering left and right and looking up with a mix of apprehension and fear. But it’s not Liberty that’s causing this chaos, this isn’t Ghostbusters II, but as you can see above the massive shape of a man in an aqualung. This is Sea Odyssey, an arts adventure playing out across the streets of Liverpool this weekend, but because of work and transport, this is the only moment when I manage to catch a glimpse of some of it.
And just a glimpse, because amid, the cameras, the crowds, the volunteers asking for those cameras and crowds to step to one side to let the entourage through, despite its enormous size there isn’t much time to take in its reality as I find myself caught between Uncle’s forward motion and the man behind me angrily pushing me out of the way. I spend as much of the time looking at the kerb trying not to trip over as looking up and only manage to take a few haphazard photographs myself before Uncle is gone, such as is it with this kind of street puppetry.
But there’s no denying the achievement or the fabulous incongruity of seeing this alien shape within such a familiar urban setting. I know that he’s walking to meet his niece, the Little Girl Giant and her pet dog Xolo, taking them a message from the wreck of Titanic and others have photographs of her progress. It’s the kind of narrative made for the modern era, initiated by the artists, in this case Royale De Luxe, but only properly pieced together after the fact by its witnesses, the public and the media, most of whom won’t be able to see all of it live.
From their photography, you can see the mechanics of the pieces, supported by cranes and animated by members of the theatre group in the exterior structure, the Lilliputians, whose acrobatics provide extra entertainment. They bring humanity to these otherwise lifeless mannequins, making them speak. Making them breath. Allowing them to rest too, reposing when required in a deck chair or Uncle's choice of the red White Star Line container which will be his present and where he was outside St George's Hall just before I just about greeted him.
Then he’s gone, up towards Renshaw Street and the mass is wondering what to do next. Some people decide to follow him, some scatter towards empty bus stops and Lime Street Station is invaded. As I turn to walk up Copperas Hill, I almost bump into a girl who’s rooted to the spot still looking towards the sky. She’s grinning. “Wasn’t that amazing?” she says, obviously because she needs to say something to someone, her voice filled with awe. I smile too, realising her reaction is what all of this pandemonium has been about.