Shock and ore

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A 'heavy' metal creation that has been a knockout show at the Edinburgh Festival is making its slinky way to Preston. David Upton reports...

It's one of the brightest, shiniest, noisiest, most weird and wonderful shows that this city will ever have seen.

After it's gone – there will be those still reeling from the experience that is The Aluminum Show ... and those reeling from missing out.

Certainly Preston has never seen anything quite like it before, a unique entertainment that has been garlanded with four and five-star reviews at this month's Edinburgh Festival – and comes virtually direct to the Charter Theatre for three nights from September 8.

It made its UK debut at the Scottish capital's Pleasance Courtyard Grand, and quickly had audiences queueing around the block for tickets.

So what is The Aluminum Show – apart from 'aluminium' with an 'i' missing?

In a nutshell it's an ingenious creation of visual theatre, combining dance, puppetry and illusion to stunning effect.

Beneath its ultra-modern, shiny metal exterior are one or two old-style stage tricks, but this 60-minute phenomena literally reaches out for your attention and then lets its audience interact in all sorts of ways.

Already a touring sensation in Europe, it actually leaves theatregoers lost for words.

The show was devised by Ilan Azriel, a former dancer in Tel Aviv's Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, who has let his imagination run riot on the theme of aluminium, in all its various industrial forms, to create a visual fantasy.

Inanimate objects are brought to life by a cast of athletic dancers and an imaginative production, and cold metal air-conditioning tubes are turned into warm living creatures, transforming the theatre into an eerie alternative world.

Wordless, but accompanied by a pounding and suitably industrial soundtrack, this is a show with a universal appeal.

Since it was first performed at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem in 2003, The Aluminum Show has toured Israel, Argentina, Russia and mainland Europe, as well as taking up lengthy residencies in Athens, Lisbon and America's Atlantic City.

This year it also opened The 19th Macau Dance Festival and the Ankara Music Festival in Turkey.

It has been greeted with delight wherever it travels, with critics comparing it to productions like the Blue Man Group and Stomp.

Preston is one of only five other cities chosen for the current UK tour, and the booking represents a considerable coup for the venue.

So how on earth did it all begin?

Artistic director Azriel had seen specialist shows in Las Vegas and was searching for his own version.

"I met up with a special effects designer called Yuval Keden who showed me a small aluminium tube. I slipped it on my arm and saw how flexible it was – and that was how it started.

''I also visited factories on kibbutz in Israel, looking at materials they used for more inspiration. At the time, they thought I was mad, but now we have five factories which supply us with the material for the show – stuff which would otherwise be thrown away."

When he started out he wanted it to be something that would appeal to people throughout the world: "From my own small town in Israel to off-Broadway in New York and as far away as China. I also wanted it to be a show that could be appreciated by people of all ages and all cultures, and I believe it is."

And that very includes children.

"I am still a child at heart myself and I have created the show from that child within. It breaks some of the theatrical conventions which children are not yet aware of, and so their reaction to it is more spontaneous than most adults. Children love the show and want to see it over and over again."

So what's next for the man behind a worldwide hit?

"We have a few days off and then we're touring Mexico, before doing shows in Germany. We've also had interest from Brazil, Holland, Belgium and South Africa, so we hope to visit those places in the near future.

"Every time someone asks me what my new project is, I say that I am continuing to work on The Aluminum Show and that it will evolve further in the future."

The Aluminum Show is at Preston Charter Theatre from September 8 to 10. Box Office: 01772 258858 or www.prestonguildhall.com