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The highlight of FESTA 2013 was undoubtedly Free Theatre’s magical Canterbury Tales carnival and procession on Sunday 27 October. Thousands of expectant people, many in costume, milled about the installations and night market before converging near the Bridge of Remembrance where puppets as high as buildings prepared for their procession and exchanged banter.
The Knight, a colourfully-lit stead of multiple recycled bicycle parts, led the procession of masked performers, dancing friars, the Wife of Bath, the Scholar and other colourful puppets based on characters from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales along an Oxford Terrace awash in a surreal purple light.
The public moved with the Free Theatre puppets through a strangely wonderful cityscape, created by installations and performances such as the haunting Angel of History singing suspended from a crane in response to a white-faced Baron Samedi, who was creating distorted soundscapes with a storm of blue-lit tarpaulin behind him.
Chatting and commenting on the sites they passed, the puppets made their way into the Square, where a waiata and fanfare greeted them under a gate of light. The collaborative exploration of the city instigated by Free Theatre’s Canterbury Tales (and reflected throughout the festival) is unprecedented in its scale with over 400 individuals involved contributing their tales of city life.