Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

ROCKET MAN; Christophe Berthonneau Is the Man Behind the World's Most Breathtaking Pyrotechnics Displays. Libby Norman Meets Him as He Prepares for His Lastest Flaming Spectacular in the East End

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

ROCKET MAN; Christophe Berthonneau Is the Man Behind the World's Most Breathtaking Pyrotechnics Displays. Libby Norman Meets Him as He Prepares for His Lastest Flaming Spectacular in the East End

Article excerpt

Byline: LIBBY NORMAN

Christophe Berthonneau gets invited to all the best parties - usually his own. Berthonneau's company, Groupe F, has masterminded some of the most showstopping firework displays of the past decade - setting the Eiffel Tower alight on Millennium night and announcing the World Cup Final in Paris. In London, Berthonneau devised the glittering opening ceremony for the Millennium Bridge and set the seal on 2002's Thames Festival by casting a rainbow of light along the river.

But Berthonneau's work goes way beyond whizz-bang effects, which is why LIFT (London International Festival Of Theatre) has commissioned a new work to be staged on Sat 12 Jun in Victoria Park. Based around themes of light and the urban environment, Joueurs de Lumieres - literally 'Players With Light' - offers rockets aplenty, but also dazzling flying machines, explosive guitar solos and an eerie multi-storey recreation of the modern cityscape.

Berthonneau, 41, has the kind of youthful energy and enthusiasm you'd expect from someone who's managed to pursue every small boy's dream career.

But then, never growing old is something he believes in passionately. 'It is vital to hold on to what you thought when you were 17,' he says. And Berthonneau's obsession with circus and the magical properties of fire began early.

The son of a Parisian actress, he left school at 13 and drifted south. It was while working in an ironworks that he became intrigued by the dramatic potential of fire. 'Fire is naturally fascinating because it creates tension and adventure - and I wanted to harness it,' he says. After a six-year spell working with Bruno Schnebelin's Ilotopie street theatre he'd qualified as a pyrotechnician (this did require going back to school) and began devising his own events. Winning the commission for the fireworks at 1992's Barcelona Olympics was his big breakthrough - the almighty bangs that show produced brought the city to a standstill and Groupe F to world attention.

Developing a pyrotechnics show presents technical problems - for a start you can't release your full armoury of fireworks in rehearsal. Second, you can't assess the visual impact in daylight. So, just after 10pm, two weeks before the world premiere of Joueurs de Lumieres, the full cast and crew, plus one enormous crane, are assembled in a field in France.

LIFT festival director Lucy Neal is there with her production team for the Victoria Park event.

Curious locals have also gathered to see the first unveiling - standing as close as safety allows. Then, on the makeshift set, a figure in a lightspangled costume (the designer was still sewing bulbs on a few hours ago) appears suspended high above the stage. Even without fireworks, the momentum and the heat soon build, with fire-breathing gas jets, blazing propellers, massed banks of talking TV screens and a giant, glistening globe suspended mid-stage. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.