Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Little Girl Giant

I'll never see her. Nor any other characters from "The Saga of The Giants".

They do not touch these shores, and I can guess that they never will.

The company producing the shows that Little Girl Giant and her associates appear in has been all over Europe, to Korea, China, Vietnam, Chile and Africa. They spent six months in Africa and three months in China, but they have never been to North America. It is likely that they are not interested in us. There is no telling what might happen here. We may be a too-volatile country for their strangeness to tempt.

Their first four productions were "The giant falls from the sky", "The giant falls from the sky, last voyage", "Return to Africa", "The giraffe hunters", and "The hidden rhinoceros". The latest in this loose series, the one in which Little Girl Giant appears as a traveler, is "The Sultan's Elephant".

Director Jean-Luc Courcoult said of his work, "I am very keen on the element of surprise. I distract the public's attention. I hypnotise them so that nobody, even when it is in the open, understands how an enormous machine could appear so suddenly. I believe that this almost childish desire to please people by surprising them is a deciding factor in my work. I have seen adults crying as the giant leaves. They have obviously lived other things, sometimes difficult, and yet this makes them cry."

The company behind this is is Royal de Luxe, located in Nantes, France, and is little known.

The 3quarksdaily blog has a stellar essay on the London production of "The Sultan's Elephant", which commemorated Jules Verne's hundredth birthday in 2005. From there: "The venue is simply the streets and open spaces of the city -- by the lake, by the harbor and in the city center. Admission is not only free, but accidental, since the show may begin anywhere, even in two places at once, and will overtake its audience bit by bit, for they shall not have known where to assemble and wait for it. Once it begins, it will keep moving, and people will follow it or even try to run a little ahead of it en route to the next corner it seems bound for, where others shall have started to hear things and look up. No member of that audience, not even the most avid, will see the show in its entirety -- like the London event, it will be structured to make that impossible. Courcoult has said only that a special story for Icelanders will be enacted, by Little Girl Giant and other familiar figures, that, on the morning of May 10, 'something unexpected will happen in Rekjavik.'"

Julian Crouch, an artist, told of his experience when the Little Girl Giant was first lifted from the time-traveling space ship found stuck nose down into the pavement of central London. "When they lifted her out of the rocket, the crowd just gasped. I tried to stifle my own gasp, but by the time she blinked and shook out her hair, I was absolutely and completely lost. She was beautiful. But really beautiful. In a deep way. And there was a little voice in my head that said, 'you could never, ever have made this.'"

Later, standing in line with his son, waiting, waiting to see if his boy would get his own short ride on the giant's arm, he was seized by fear that it would not happen, and wept, relieved, finally, when his son did get a turn.

There isn't much a person can say without having been there. I've seen videos on YouTube and elsewhere, and though they're mesmerizing they can't ever come close to spending four days in a dream world alive with giants. It must be like finding that your town has been overtaken silently by Burning Man and thousands of followers between the time you fell asleep and the time you again wakened the next morning.

The Little Girl Giant is 20 feet high, and the elephant who provides her morning shower bath stands 40 feet high and weighs 46 tons. They are attended and operated by a small army of technicians in red livery, seeming refugees from the 18th century.

Little Girl Giant's hair is made from the tails of 50 horses. Her breathing continues day and night, powered by an internal motor. Her eyes blink. She can lick sweets. She squats and pees in the street while her operators discreetly turn their heads. She naps frequently.

Although there have been books written on Royal de Luxe and their productions, and DVDs available, they don't seem to have made it to this country. We're stuck for now with a bunch of miserable-quality videos on the web. But they are still haunting me.


YouTube Videos
A better quality video: Little girl giant plays in the park
The Sultan's Elephant (Has PDF downloads you might like, telling the story.)
Royal de Luxe theatre company
The Little Girl Giant
3quarksdaily Royal de Luxe: the saga of the giants, by Elatia Harris
Images: Royal de Luxe Central
Images: I, for one, welcome the Giant French Rocket Girl and her Elephant of Royal Luxury!
Images: au coin de la rue (Flash, in French)


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