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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Never juggle Ukeleles: Lessons learned from street theatre.

I love my adopted home city. Edinburgh has everything you could possibly want from a city: mountains and murals, beaches (murky brown rather than sparkling blue, but it's water isn't it?) and brothels, Galleries and Greggs (SO many Greggs). It's even got its own friendly bench, encouraging passers-by on Leith Walk to sit down for a wee chat.

Photo credit: EdinPhoto (here)
And it has The Festival Season. Squatting across the bridge of the year, like an enormous toad in a party hat. People pour into the city to make jokes about ham, do interpretative dancing to the beat of the Berlin wall and engage in mild psychological torture in the form of a cappella singing. I jest of course. The psychological torture is moderate to intense: particularly in the rain, on a high note.

Today I had a wander along the Royal Mile. I got in people's way, trod on a lady's foot and melted ice-cream all over my hands. In general then, I had a lovely time. 

You don't have to spit far to gob on greatness in Edinburgh during Festival Season. I would still suggest that you didn't do it, because it's a filthy habit. But, you know, the option's open to you. If you fancy spending the night in a prison cell / becoming the muse for a body-fluid-themed show at next year's festival. Put like that, your spit could go viral. Still gross though.

Not everyone can be great though. Unless some people are mediocre, and downright bad, then everyone is average. Everything is 'meh'. 

Luckily, there is lots to fill this role in The Fringe. Always. (Also, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that one person's 'meh' is the next person's 'life-changing'. Just like B*Witched can simultaneously be life-blood music to me and 'OMG turn it off, turn it off my ears just gnawed into my skull for bony protection' to much of the population. Philistines). 

Fertile breeding ground for mistakes and mediocrity lies in street theatre. Now, I LOVE street theatre. Whatever you think about the quality of their work, it takes balls of steel to stand and shout until people start paying enough attention to you that you can start throwing knives or dancing the YMCA. And these people do it sober. 

I saw some street theatre today. Some of it was very bad. There was a man doing card tricks which could, as the Glaswegians behind me pointed out 'Be done by my wean'. And I saw the penny he was disappearing! I should never see the penny. At the end, people started walking away and he threatened them that if they didn't pay they'd go home 'to find their dog dead'. You know that you've done a solid gold show when you have to threaten people's pets to get them to cough up. It's magic, mafia-style.

Some of it was excellent. There was a man, juggling things and waving about whips, to a background of rock and roll music. He shimmied and shook to the strains of 'Let's Twist Again' and did the kind of fiddly juggling that is probably even more difficult than it looks. Now, he made mistakes. But he was having the time of his life, and he made the mistakes so joyfully that you couldn't help but laugh along with him. Perhaps it was a mistake to try to juggle Ukeleles. They are not the most naturally juggle-able of objects. But he really wanted to juggle Ukeleles, and he poured his heart and soul into completely ignoring their intended purpose in favour of bouncing them off cobble stones. 

There was another man who was doing fancy things with a bowler hat, and every time he made a mistake and the hat fell to the floor, he did a theatrical grunt-groan, in time with the music. Eventually it got to the stage where he was grunt-groaning at everything, success or failure. It was wonderful. The sounds of his elation at doing something he loved, and sharing it with people, followed us right to the bus stop. Granted, at one point they did become somewhat disconcertingly intimate sounding... The public setting reassured me as to their innocent nature, but I didn't look back just in case.

You know what was great about them all? (Yes, even the card-trickster with pet-ricidal tendencies) They all stood up, in the middle of the street, and threw their whole heart into creating something that people could enjoy. It didn't matter that they didn't have the best show at the Fringe, or that they made mistakes. It was joyful to watch them throw themselves at something that they loved, even when they ended up splattered against the window. 

So thank you mister juggler, I'm going to try to follow your lead, whips and all. One piece of advice from me to you though: try clarinets. Much more aerodynamic.

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