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How cogs in La Machine spun a few wheels... and persuaded top brass to agree.

Byline: BY VICKY ANDERSON Daily Post Staff

NICKY Webb and Helen Marriage must be two of the most persuasive people in Liverpool.

As directors of production company Artichoke, they are the pair that have had to convince everybody - from the police to the bus companies, to practically every authority and public service in between - that "mucking about with the city" to give a giant mystery mechanical creature the run of the streets is a good idea.

They run the small logistical team behind La Machine, the live theatre extravaganza which will take over Liverpool for the weekend from September 5.

The pounds 2m spectacular, commissioned by the Culture Company, will involve road closures, re-routed public transport and lots of organisational headaches along the way to make room for a top secret creature known only as La Princess - but Artichoke has no doubt it will be worth the 18 months spent making it happen.

The show, La Machine, will be top secret until it begins early next month.

Ms Webb said: "We do everything that has to be done to make it happen.

That involves a lot of persuasion.

"Some of it has really been a big ask and we have had to work to establish real bonds of trust. You can't just fly in and do stuff like this."

Ms Webb and Ms Marriage formed Artichoke in London in 2002, as having worked independently on the same projects, found they both enjoyed the same elements of large scale, free performances in public spaces.

They were behind the scenes of the Sultan's Elephant in the capital in 2006 - the closest thing an unsuspecting audience could compare to La Machine - alongside French company Machines de l'Ile who are now working at a secret location in Wirral to make sure their mystery creature is ready to go; and more recently, they were behind Telectroscope, which appeared to link London and New York through a telescope stretching through the centre of the earth.

Ms Marriage said: "Every time we take on a new city we have to start all over again.

"The first meetings with the authorities are very hard - it's hard for people not to think we're completely mad.

"There's been times when we thought we were losing the persuading argument.

"But if people say no, we think 'they don't mean it, they just don't understand'!"

Ms Webb added: "We create the platform for these amazing people to come in and do their magic.

"For us it's all about the long-term destination, rather than the journey.

"We are really interested in the relationship between show and audience, and using public spaces makes them much closer.

Conventional theatre puts a real barrier between them.

"So we are using the city as a theatre and that is really exciting."

Watch out for the beginning of La Machine, expected to be one of the most memorable highlights of 2008, which will appear on a prominent city centre building from the first week in September.

We create the platform for these amazing people


Helen Marriage, left, and Nicky Webb, directors from Artichoke Picture: PAUL HEAPS/PH220808DARTICHOKE-1; Sultan's Elephant marched through London in 2006
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2008
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