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Review: Aurora at Toxteth Reservoir *****

Most Liverpudlians aren’t even aware of its existence, but for more a than century Toxteth Reservoir helped keep the south of the city supplied with vital clean drinking water.

The rectangular sandstone monolith could house up to two million gallons – although luckily for lucky ticket holders for this memorable multimedia experience, any liquid they might encounter remains at ankle depth.

I say lucky because Aurora is a deserved sell-out for the rest of its run (sadly there are no plans to add extra dates or times), and it’s one of the undoubted highlights of the Liverpool 2018 year of commissions.

FACT and Leeds-based interactive tech wizards Invisible Flock have created a piece of work that is quietly magical, and yet loudly unsettling at times too.

Clad in waterproof footwear, visitors are invited to step inside the darkened interior of the brick-vaulted cistern and on to a raised walkway where you’re literally walking on water.

The platform, delineated from deeper water beyond by lasers in changing colours, encircles an eerie performance space where light and sound, created by a collection of international artists, are used to captivating effect.

Aurora at Toxteth Reservoir. Photos by Ed Waring

Tactile ice sculptures pulse heartbeat-like with light, while long ice lanterns hang in diagonal patterns between the cavern’s pillars, dancing gently up and down during the 40-minute experience.

The performance takes its viewers from deep in the rainforest to sheltering under railway arches as a thunderous rainstorm passes over, to what feels like the vacuum of deep space – experienced it feels from within the experimental clanks and groans of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

At times the soundscape becomes so loud it thumps inside your ribcage. At others it’s so delicate and musical it evokes unexpected emotion.

The singular experience comes to a symphonic conclusion accompanied by a rainbow lattice of lasers, their light diffused through and directed by the dripping ice lights.

Bravo to FACT and to Invisible Flock for producing one of the most memorable moments of Liverpool 2018.

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