Return to home page

Outdoor event, Mo & the Red Ribbon stunned audiences as a 7-metre high giant puppet performed across Newbury!

On Saturday 30 September Newbury town centre was ablaze with colour as flares, firecrackers and balloons were let off as part of Corn Exchange Newbury and 101 Outdoor Arts latest free outdoor arts performance Mo & the Red Ribbon, presented by Compagnie L'Homme Debout and local volunteers.

As the sun set, the spotlights came on and rested on a giant wicker puppet named Mo, who played the lead in this story. The show told the story of Mo, a child refugee, who had been separated from his family and was to begin a fantastical journey towards a new life.

Accompanied by a phenomenally emotive soundscape, the story began with the sound of lapping sea waves as an ominous red flare approached from the distance, amongst the crowd of approximately 3000 on lookers. As the crimson light drew near, it was revealed to be a group of performers wearing life jackets, representing the other refugees that were to board the boat with Mo.

Backed by the eerie whispers of Happy Birthday, Mo was then presented with the promise of a floating, glowing gift – which he followed along Northbrook Street. Upon reaching the Market Place, the space erupted into an electric party at Mo’s safe arrival, with giant multi-coloured balloons which bounced along the procession as the crowed filed into The Wharf carpark for the finale.

Lured into the Wharf by the floating promise, Mo quickly found himself trapped by red tape on which projections of his life back home were displayed to a tense, pounding soundtrack. With one final explosion the ribbon was ripped away and Mo was finally free, and as silence fell, Mo finally grasped onto the present he was promised from the start.

After the feeling of pent-up anticipation regarding the finale dissipated, relief replaced the crowd’s collective feeling as Mo was finally at peace. Mo & the Red Ribbon was a gift to Newbury in itself, telling an important, and heartbreakingly current story with an ultimately optimistic end. Compagnie l'Homme Debout themselves describe their work as not working with giants, but rather magnifying the voices of the small into their giant puppets.

Taking part alongside Compagnie l'Homme Debout was a team of 40 local volunteers, some of whom took part as performers and others supported with the stewarding or technical elements of the performance. These included asylum seekers living in West Berkshire, older people, young people and aspiring performers.

Corn Exchange Newbury and 101 Outdoor Arts’ next free outdoor event will be their annual Festival of Light on Sunday 10 December starting from 4pm, which will turn Newbury town centre into a twinkling wonderland.

Image credit: Adam Hillier