In May 2013, the Secret Cinema transformed a 14-storey office block into the dystopian world of Terry Gilliam’Brazil. Guerilla Science’s Jen Wong describes our subterranean safari tour with a twist…

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We created an urban wildlife walk for the dystopian world of Secret Cinema’s Brazil, offering audiences the chance to get back in touch with nature. Inspired by the idea of mutants, we wondered what kinds of life would thrive in the bowels of a building where there had been a possible unspecified contamination leak, and the slum-dwellings of Paradise Towers. The answer? Bacteria, cockroaches, scorpions, crickets, and the ubiquitous city dwelling pigeon, with a twist.

Exploring the ‘wild’ side of these animals meant examining our relationships with them as we plotted out the tour. Intrepid safari guide Lloyd Ryan Thomas accompanied select audience members into the depths of the building to evoke an emotional journey of fear, disgust, surprise and wonder. In the dark basement, punters discovered a series of glowing creatures and others that responded to UV light. Ascending to the affordable housing zone, they could place a bet on the fastest racing Madagascan cockroach or examine the anatomy of a cricket.

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The last stop on the safari involved observing a flock of fancy pigeons who had taken up residence in a housing unit formerly occupied by a pigeon fancier, who had since vanished.

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Audiences noted down the particular mutations that humans had selectively bred for over the last 150 years, as well as their peculiar interactions and behaviour.

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Romantic avian liasons abounded, with audience and crew speculating on the orientation and faithfulness of pigeon pairs.

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For more pics of the pigeons and the rest of the safari, please check out our Flickr site.

We would like to thank microbiologist Simon Park, University of Surrey and John Ross from www.darwinspigeons.com for all their help, and the Wellcome Trust for their generous support.