Inferno & Room of Roots - May 1972

Submitted by root on Mon, 07/15/2013 - 16:11

Inferno and Room of Roots were the result of the Blackie working with two postgraduate students (Jenny Carroll and Judith Blundell) from Theatre Design at the Slade College of Art and two dancers (Di Davies and Dennis Greenwood) from the London School of Contemporary Dance.

In addition to the two installations there were Contemporary dance workshops led by Di, Davies, Dennis Greenwood, Margie Katz, and Marie Riollano including a workshop led by Di Davies on the evening to the performances.

Below is a description of the event from the Blackie Publication 7Up and a detailed cast list.  Sadly we have no photos of Room of Roots, we do  have a few of Inferno mainly the Junior version - it was far too dark during the performance to take photographs and far too busy before it!

Welcome to Hell

The Guardians at the Gates of Hell were very considerate - providing you with protective overshoes and cloakroom facilities. Gatekeeper Irene Amery even applied make-up to all 65 visitors to help them fit in with their new surroundings.

Entering you found yourself in a pitch-dark tunnel. Moving forward to find light you also found a congealed river of blood which moved icily against your legs (80 packets of red jelly prepared overnight by Wendy, Stephen 'Knocker' Knox and Michael 'Ammo' Hamilton). Forward down the tunnel you avoid the huge snapping teeth, and step carefully over souls writhing under stretched latex and illuminated by flames (2 red lights). Unearthly sounds accompany your passage through the tunnel and finally 2 walls of apparently disembodied waving limbs hasten and propel you out.

Emerging from the Inferno you find yourself in the relative quiet of a circular underground chamber, stepping over and under a moving spider's web of roots (but where the disguised performers end and the stockinet roots began was not easy to tell).

Inferno : an exercise in restriction, was created by Jenny Carroll with unearthly taped sounds by Jeff McKewan, and performed by Blackie staff and friends with students from I.M Marsh College of Physical Education and students from the London School of Contemporary Dance (who also led 6 open 2-hour workshops in modern American dance technique, Graham-style, during their 7-day visit).

Room of Roots was created by Judith Blundell, with taped sound by John Brock, and performed by Judith herself, Stella and Maria Riollano, Di Davies and friends.

Young People

The tunnel structure was also used as the basis for an obstacle course during a senior playgroup immediately prior to Inferno; and, on the Saturday following, kids at the junior playgroup (in small accompanied groups) went through a 'Junior Inferno', now featuring a performance in the jelly by swimsuit-clad Brenda Suku, Lorraine Hamilton, Debbie Alcock and Teresa Snowball (who had all visited 'Hell' the previous evening).

The two events took place on 5 May 1972 at a cost of £100. They were inspired respectively by Dante's Inferno and Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, but both owed something to the Fun Fairs and Horror Houses of Blackpool.

Young dancers in the jellyYoung dancers in the jelly for Junio InfernoLorraine Hamilton dancing in the jelly

Swimsuit-clad Brenda Suku, Lorraine Hamilton, Debbie Alcock and Teresa Snowball in the jelly for Junior Inferno.

The walls of teethSnapping teeth with performers behind

The walls with teeth that would lunge at you 

Climbing through Inferno

Negotiating the 'boulders'

The Programme


An exercise in restriction-based on Dante

A labyrinth of limitations -hell as confinement

Environment conceived by Jenny Carroll

Executed and expanded by Jenny Carroll, Mo bates, Robin Harries, Bill Harpe, Wendy Harpe and Roland Shannon

Music by Jeff McKewan

Room of Roots

A tribute to Mervyn Peake

"Wherever  he turned he was faced with a network of weird arms that rose and fell, dipped and clawed, motionless yet alive with Serpentine Rhythms"

Created by Judith Blundell

Sound engineered by John Brock

Performers : Inferno

Slade School of Art  : Jenny Carroll

The Blackie : Sandy Armstrong, Judy bates (now Gough), Mo Bates, Tommy Branch, Martin Brems, Bob Ede, Ed George, Robin Harries, Tobias Holland, Chris Mead, Sally Morris, Ronnie  Robinson, and Ro Shannon.

London School of Contemporary Dance : Dennis Greenwood I.M.Marsh College : Irene Avery, Wynne MacGregor, Margaret Trehy and Sarah Webb

Friends : Carol Etherington, Jym MacRitchie, Aiden Morgan, Maria  Riollano, Faye Rosen, Arabelle Unsworth, Helen Visser, and Margaret Winter.

Performers : Room Of Roots

Slade College of Art : Judith Blundell

London School of Contemporary Dance : Di Davies

I.M.Marsh College : Sharon Brown, Sheila Jones, Anton Lesser, and Margaret Trehy.

Friend : Stella Riollano

Technical :  Wendy Harpe and Toby Holland

Scaffolding : Mo Bates, Ro Shannon, Howard Steel

Jelly ;  Stephen Knox,  Michael Hamilton and Wendy Harpe,

Thanks :  Bill Hannah for the loan of a car battery and Cheshire Gelatine for a gift of gelatine.