Two people fainting in the extreme heat of a stuffy circus tent and a handful of people treated for irritated eyes from fireworks ash were the only blemishes on an otherwise successful opening weekend for the Perth International Arts Festival.
Under an otherwise clear sky, the French troupe Les Commandos Percu drummed up a pyrotechnics storm for more than 40,000 people in Langley Park on Saturday night.
As smoke drifted over the water, there was indeed fire in the sky.
The thunder and lightning came courtesy of batteries of backstage and onstage fireworks - and the audience had to pack up their picnics and stand up to absorb the ferocious assault on their senses.
Ringing bells and a ticking clock signalled the start of the BPM (Bombs Per Minute) spectacular to confirm that the Festival was under way after its low-key opening ceremony the night before.
The drummers, with welding masks and overalls that made them look like extras from the Mad Max films, took to a stage cluttered with equipment that could have been pinched from an industrial shopfloor.
They banged gongs, bells and chimes in tandem with a throbbing bass line, which was given emphatic punctuation by the tracer fire and explosions of the pyrotechnics.
Conventional drums, metal tubs, sheets of metal and even customised power tools were used to build the nerve-quickening tempo.
Sparks and ash showered over the crowd and flamethrowers sent plumes of fire into the sky.
The sulphuric stench of spent fireworks drifted across Langley Park and the Swan River. BPM was in striking contrast to the comforting embrace of the feathery snowfall of Place des Anges, last year's Festival spectacular.
Festival organisers had promised something very different to Place des Anges and we got it. This was sound and fury rather than sweetness and light.
"Last year raised the game a lot and we were all very aware we had to follow that," Festival director Jonathan Holloway said. "It's almost exactly the opposite.
"Last year was beauty and feathers and angels. This year is drumming and fireworks and excitement so it's a really good companion piece to last year."
The sensory overload was too much for some, who retreated from the aural assault. About five people were also treated for minor eye complaints. Several people also posted complaints on Facebook about the fireworks fallout.
"It genuinely upsets me if anybody doesn't have a fantastic time at an event," Mr Holloway said. "I place safety and the enjoyment of an audience at the highest levels."
The event involved experienced pyrotechnicians, fire and safety experts and artists who understood risk management, he said.
Mr Holloway said BPM came out of the European bonfire and cracker night tradition and people had the choice to stand further back and enjoy it as a spectacle or to be immersed in the action more completely.
"It was a live event, a real event, it is not television," he said. "It engaged with people and didn't leave them as pure spectators. It involved them and therefore people are going to have feelings about it."
In Russell Square, the Ronaldo Circus show La Cucina Dell'Arte opened in a stifling hot century-old tent in which two audience members fainted and were treated by ambulance officers on site.
A Festival spokeswoman said Circus Ronaldo had performed around the world in all sorts of conditions and had not requested air-conditioning. It would be installed for future shows.'It was a live event. It engaged with people and didn't leave them as pure spectators.'"Perth International Arts Festival director *Jonathan Holloway *
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