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One Step Forward, One Step Back

Vinny Lawrenson Woods goes on a fantastic journey from Hell into the light, via the hidden bits of the Anglican Cathedral, for a world premiere

Published on April 15th 2008.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

To find an installation using architecture, video, sculpture, images, performance and text at The Tate Liverpool would be no surprise, but to find it at the far end of Hope Street at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral was certainly unexpected.

Inspired by Paradiso, the third part of Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy and created by dreamthinkspeak, One Step Forward, One Step Back, an 08 commission from the Liverpool Culture Company, describes the journey from the darkness of Hell to the brightness of Heavenly Paradise.

Like characters in a Hitchcock movie, we were drawn along dimly lit corridors, up stairs and to the highest point of this Goliath of Gothic architecture. Vertigo came to mind.

dreamthinkspeak was founded by Artistic Director Tristan Sharps in November 1999 and is based in Brighton. With no specific format and no two pieces the same, the company aims to explore the use of space, light, image, film, sound and text as equal ingredients in creating live performance and to explore how the use of different environments can radically alter the relationship of the audience to the work.

Starting at the Weston Rooms entrance, groups of three are sent into the unknown at five-minute intervals. Like characters in a Hitchcock movie, we were drawn along dimly lit corridors, up stairs and to the highest point of this Goliath of Gothic architecture. Vertigo came to mind.

With an eerie soundtrack continuously playing, the appearance of ghost-like figures and common references to literature and learning, including William Blake’s hymn Jerusalem, we were transported to another place and time only to be brought back again by familiar characters and images.

Change is a strong theme in the piece. We are all looking for our place in a changing world but as the Philosopher Heraclitus once said “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”, so maybe we always will. In a week when Southwark Cathedral has banned Jerusalem, he may be right.

Rich in symbolism and references, from Adam and Eve to Milton’s Paradise Lost, One Step Forward, One Step Back uses strong imagery, performance and video to guide you through the recesses of the Cathedral. With further references to shopping, Santa Claus, and Liverpool’s very own Paradise Street you are taken on a timeless, yet up-to-date search for paradise.

All in all, One Step Forward, One Step Back is a large scale installation with a vision and it succeeds in its delivery. Wandering through normally unexplored parts of the cathedral, this is an intimate journey that allows every visitor to interpret the installation in their own way. The performances are excellent, the sculptures are unique and the Santas were fun, if not a little sinister.

I recommend waiting until its dark before entering the cathedral, as the views from the top of the bell tower at night are breathtaking and alien. Looking out on my home city I felt moved by the unrecognisable yet familiar view.


One Step Forward, One Step Back, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, until May 10, 2008. Tickets £8-£12.

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AnonymousApril 14th 2008.

Went to see "One Step forward" last week and thought it was absolutely amazing, just so different from anything that i've seen before, and being a bit of a luvvie, have seen lots of unusual stuff. I will definitely be going back again before it finishes..

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