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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Buskers in Bavaria

It's been a long time since I really considered myself a proper street performer. Five plus years since I was a real Covent Garden pitch monkey. I left it partly because I was lucky enough to be offered work in surroundings less dependent on good weather and tourists, partly because I wanted to do some things that couldn't be done on the street, and partly because - frankly - the state of street performing in my home town made me sad. The last couple of years I worked the piazza were not happy ones for me. It felt artistically stale and often depressing. For me, it seemed like I dead end, so I did all I could to find another road.

But... Every so often I get invited to an international street theatre festival, and sometimes I say yes, and occasionally it's as good as the one I just did. Perfect storm, kids. Beautiful Bavarian town, with wide cobbled streets, wonderful organisers who are truly fans of the artform, and the perfect group of people to share the weekend with (As seen in the Expendables-style group shot above). You got your clown from Portugal, your Spanish circus act, your New York magician, a juggler from Tel Aviv, an acrobat from Australia and a visual comedy supremo from New Zealand - all of whom were on planes this morning so that they could be together, here, this weekend. Not bad at all.

The shows were lovely, the audiences excellent, the weather was perfect, the work was hard, sweaty and fun, and the evenings were warm and slightly drunken. And it made this boy fall in love with street performing - and street performers - all over again.

At it's worst, street theatre can have more in common with street trading than theatre - people trudge through hackneyed old material that uses lazy stereotypes to get tired laughs from an audience, all the while doing tricks and routines that they saw someone else make money from, and decided to use. When you need to make money out of a pitch, artistic stagnation isn't too much of a concern to most. But for those that do care, who do regard what they do as theatre, who know that only an idiot judges the quality of art by its venue, well those people do some pretty amazing stuff. And lucky for me, it's those people that tend to get invited to the nice festivals. Lucky for me, because I'm as enthusiastic an audience member as I am a performer, and also lucky for me because those cats are excellent fun to hang out with.

Here's to more of this kind of thing, please.

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