I got lost on my way to Babel. I’m a visitor to London and didn’t have the opportunity to seek out Caledonian Park prior to Sunday night’s performance. I had GoogleMaps leading me astray; I’m not sure what did it for the production. Urged along park paths dotted with men and women dressed in white berets and trench coats (who I deemed angels) and lined with people doing their own thing- reading books in trees, making salad, doing yoga, sleeping in real beds, was fascinatingly surreal. That surrealism vanished as soon as we entered Caledonian Park’s main field. The central clearing was dotted with tents. There was music, provided by both a band and a choir. After purchasing a spiced cider from the bar tent, I found myself being invited into a “circle of love” in a round, raised tent. I was promised games and stories, but instead found myself the object of other audience members’ curiosity; who was this American girl drinking cider on the floor? Leaving the Love Tent, I discovered a knit skyline of London, a fire artist, and a dancing Southeast Asian hermaphrodite. Every so often, an angel would speak, encouraging us to “build our new city.” It was utterly thrilling and bizarre, almost like living in an environmental production of Angels in America. I was half expecting someone to tell me to “look up.”
When night fell, the “dramatic” portion of the evening began. Where the prologue was one of the most interesting and different art instillations I’ve ever seen, the story of the play-part of Babel was simplistic, under-defined, and ended too patly to be of any real interest. There was a political message folded in there, something about the Occupy Movement and the current eviction of low-income East Londoners in advance of the Olympics, but the politics wasn’t carried far enough. We were left with more questions than answers. Why, for example, were the people so dedicated to living in the shadow of the tower? Why weren’t they allowed to stay? What were the security guards protecting? What were the angels? Aside from a tower and a bunch of people in native costume (most of whom spoke English), what did this have to do with the Tower of Babel story?
Like my journey to Caledonian Park, Babel had a few wrong turns. While I ultimately found myself in the right place, I’m not sure Babel did- though I have faith that it could, with further development on the plot of the piece.