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Sultan's Elephant


The Sultan's Elephant

Your questions answered about London's largest free theatre spectacular...


We've heard it's big and supposed to be breathtaking, but what is it exactly?

The Sultan's Elephant
Are you ready for a 42-ton elephant?

It's a fairy-tale event for children and adults alike, set on the streets of London over the course of the coming weekend (4 - 7 May) and featuring a vast, 42-ton mechanical elephant, a time-travelling Sultan and his retinue - and a few surprises as well.

Such as?

We've been sworn to secrecy but there are large-scale puppets and moving figures involved, a Grand Parade, and a hefty dose of illusion and magic. The main idea is that the event will unfold and evolve in surprising ways as the weekend progresses.

Where's it happening?

"We wanted to reassert the importance of monumental live performance in the life of a city's culture..."
Helen Marriage of Artichoke, producers of the event

In central London - in the streets of Westminster, taking in Horse Guards Parade, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square and St James' Park. You'll also be able to catch the event as it proceeds along various locations such as Parliament Square, Knightsbridge, Kensington High Street, Park Lane, Oxford Street, Clerkenwell Road, Ludgate Circus and Holborn Viaduct.

A nightmare for traffic then?

The Sultan's Elephant will unavoidably bring traffic to a standstill and close roads wherever it goes. A rolling programme of road closures will come into force for strictly limited periods only. There will be some disruption but remember too, that some parts of the route are regularly given over to political demonstrations, ceremonial events and sporting triumphs like the London Marathon.

Who's behind the event?

The Giant who fell out of the sky (by Jordi Bover)
Getting a measure of The Giant

France's leading street arts company, Royal de Luxe. They're not well known over here, but they've been going for 30 years and have performed all over the world, specialising in shows involving gigantic, moving figures up to forty feet high such as The Giant who fell out of the sky, which has been seen in Calais and Barcelona. The Sultan's Elephant has been four years in the planning and is said to be inspired by the stories of Jules 'Around the World in 80 Days' Verne.

And who's paying - it's not coming out of our Council Tax is it?

In a word, no. The event is being funded mainly by Arts Council England and the London Development Agency, with support from private funders and the co-operation of Westminster City Council, the Metropolitan Police, the Royal Parks and Transport for London.

What's the best way to experience the show?

First, it isn't necessary to watch the show for all four days. In fact, the spectacle proper really begins on Friday (5 May) and it doesn't matter if you dip in and out over the course of the weekend. Do be prepared to walk and follow the event on foot to get the most out of it. And it's probably best to travel into central London this weekend by public transport.

And the best places to see and catch a flavour of the whole thing?

We don't want to spoil the magic, but we won't be giving too much away in detailing these set-pieces: there's a major surprise in store at Horse Guards Parade on Friday from 2pm and again in the same place from 10am on Saturday (6 May). Mayor Ken will be greeting the Sultan and his Elephant in Trafalgar Square later on Saturday at 1pm before the Parade begins, and you really should get to the finalé in Horse Guards Parade on Sunday (7 May) at 5.30pm. One more thing: bring your camera or mobile. We want your pictures of the event across the weekend wherever you can catch it - and there's a terrific prize for the best photo! 

RELATED LINKS:

Route Map >
Jam Cams >
The Show Begins >
Royal de Luxe Photos >
Sultan's Elephant website >
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last updated: 04/05/06
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