By Alice Baker
Six armoured figures emerge from the shadows and raise their arms in salute, as drum and trumpet fanfare echoes off the surrounding buildings. This was the dramatic opening sequence of Blood Rite, a two-day open-air production combining music, dance and video projections staged by London’s Guildhall to commemorate its past as the site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre.
The music combined styles from several eras, seguing from operatic flourishes to beats that would not be out of place in a modern nightclub. This could have felt jarring, but the transition was surprisingly seamless, neatly symbolising the passage of time. The movements of dance sequences, parts of which took the form of stylised fighting, were mirrored by the animated sequences projected onto the facades Guildhall buildings. These also made heavy use of Roman iconography such as the imperial eagle, while at other times adding a surreal element, such as a scene where the bricks of the Gallery appeared to crumble to the ground.
Less successful was a sequence near the end where the dancers in Roman costume were joined by others in modern dress. While this was probably meant to symbolise the unity of past and present, it felt slightly like a few onlookers had somehow wandered on stage. But, overall, this was a well-staged production which made effective use of its location to add drama and atmosphere.