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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Portraits of Liars

I couldn't possibly tell you who these people are, or where these photos were taken. It's a secret.

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.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Mick Foley

So, as previously noted, one of the highlights of this years Edinburgh Fringe was getting the chance to hang out with, and then interview, the great Mick Foley. Those that know me know that I'm a big pro wrestling fan - my opinion being that it, like street performing, variety and burlesque, is a greatly underrated theatre form. Dismissed as low-brow by those that have never really watched it, but known by those who love it to be often quite a bit cleverer than it appears to be. It's improvisational physical theatre disguised as sport, which makes it worthy of a look from anyone who claims to like underground performative artforms. ooh get me and my long words.

On it's good days, it's also funny, exciting, thrilling - sometimes literally death defying, other times genuinely moving. Which leads us to Mick Foley - a performer who has been all of those things, often in the same match, and who challenges the casual observer's idea of what a pro-wrestler should look like, think, say and do more than anyone else. "Four time World heavyweight champion" and "Three time New York Times bestselling author" don't often refer to the same person, but they do with Mick.

I'd never met him before, we'd been introduced via a mutual friend, but we got on immediately. Over a drink before the show he asked me questions about the fringe, and my experience with it, and we talked about the similarities between my artform and his - Mick mentioning how they're related because they both have roots in carnivals and fairgrounds, and about his recent move into stand-up comedy. And then we continued the conversation on stage, in front of a gorgeous crowd of fans who were, as I was, amazed to get the chance to spend some time with a boda-fide legend in such an intimate and relaxed environment.

So, click here to download the podcast either directly or via iTunes, bnd a couple of quick notes before you do..

At one point in the interview I show a brief piece of footage, which we then talk about - you can see it here.

If you enjoyed it, I'd be really grateful if you'd leave a review on iTunes - if you click that 5th star and leave something nice in the comments, it really helps. Thanks in advance.

Also, if you haven't already, do make sure to check out all the other podcasts in the 2012 season of The Varieties. We'll be doing season 2 next year, all being well.