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Source - London Tour

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Presented by The Circulate Consortium, Cirque Bijou and Nutkhut’s Source is an extraordinary story that brings to life an underground world of six forgotten rivers of London, performed outdoors on streets across the capital by circus, dance, theatre and cabaret artists.

As London faces up to significant population growth and the need to update the aging sewer system created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, this tale of underground artists rediscovers the summer of 1858, the year of the ‘Big Stink’, when London’s rivers filled with sewage, forcing the House of Commons to stop sitting because of the smell.

Using S.O.U.R.C.E, the Scientific Orienteering Universal River Charting Engine, six performers representing six waterways in outer London boroughs tell stories and historic moments connecting Victorian London to pioneering philanthropists, social reformers, artists, inventors and engineers from a diverse social spectrum.

The company and vehicle will be in residency at each of the six venues for five days to engage with the community, rehearse, and run workshops, culminating in a final outdoor performance of circus, street theatre and live music from the Summer into the Autumn of 2014.

The company will work with members of the local community, drama students, and young people at each of the venues, introducing participants to a variety of outdoor performance techniques ready to take part in a bespoke performance on the final day of residency. Each show will contain six lead characters, one to represent each area, and will be led in each location by the character representing the area.

Gangs of tunnellers buried with the rivers have been living underground for over a hundred years, living off stories and music that have seeped and dripped through the earth. As cracks appear in the ground, rivers start to explode into the overground world carrying away the carefully collected stories and music of London’s past and present. The ancient tunnellers are forced to travel into the light to enlist the help of the overgrounders to plug the leaks of music and story.

Source has been commissioned by Circulate Consortium, a partnership of six arts centres based in outer London boroughs. As part of the London 2012 cultural programme, the six venues produced seasons of live performance outdoors for the first time.

They are now working together with the Mayor of London and the Audience Agency for three years to create a legacy from London 2012 and to increase cultural provision on high streets around London (funded by Arts Council England). Their first year featured Spin Cycle, a musical on the move, created by Emergency Exit Arts.

Cirque Bijou create and produce bold, visually arresting, highly physical circus. They launched the London 2012 Sailing events at Weymouth with the UK’s largest Cultural Olympiad project, Battle for the Winds, and have created performance for stadium tours with Muse and Take That and TV appearances on The X Factor and MTV Europe Music Awards.

They have presented shows at the National Theatre, Glastonbury Festival, Bestival, Goodwood Festival of Speed and Royal Albert Hall, and launched some of the UK’s largest retail developments. They have also developed programmes to support young and emerging artists, and last year launched Extraordinary Bodies with partners Diverse City – the UK’s only professional integrated circus company, Extraordinary Bodies.

Nutkhut was formed in 2003 by leading British Asian artists Simmy Gupta and Ajay Chhabra. They create work mixing performance, dance, film, participation and a distinctly British comedic sensibility and eccentricity.

S.O.U.R.C.E, the water divining machine around which the show is based, was originally designed and built as a Wind Gathering Vessel representing the West of England in the South West’s largest Cultural Olympiad project, Battle for the Winds.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The Circulate Consortium is bringing another series of exciting cultural events to the outer boroughs this summer, enlivening high streets and town centres around London. This latest production promises an evocative exploration of London’s lost and hidden rivers and a fascinating insight into some of our city’s great inventors and pioneers, which I hope will attract and entertain local people as well as visitors to the capital.”

Source is directed by Billy Alwen (Cirque Bijou) and Ajay Chhabra (Nutkhut).

Tour venues and dates

Henry Prince Estate, St John’s Drive, London, SW18 4US – August 16 at 7pm (in residency from August 12). In association with Tara Arts, Wandsworth (

Harrow Town Centre, Middlesex, HA1 – August 23 at 4pm (in residency from August 19). In association with Harrow Arts Centre (

Artsdepot, Barnet, 5 Nether Street, London, N12 0GA – August 30 at 3pm (in residency from August 26).

Bell Square, Hounslow High Street, London, TW3 3HH – September 27 at 2pm (in residency from September 23). In association with Watermans, Hounslow (

Market Square, Deptford, London, SE8 4AG – October 5 at 3pm (in residency from October 1). In association with The Albany, Deptford (

The tour has already visited Pymmes Park, Victoria Road, Edmonton.

NB: All performances are unticketed, free outdoor performances.

Running Time: 45 minutes.

Source is suitable for all ages.