ON THE STREETS
Roland Miller, himself a veteran of street performance, introduces Glasgow’s major festival, Street Biz (12—27 Aug), with a look down the years, from the age of radical happenings to dependence on sponsorship and
‘Throw your books away and take to the streets!‘ was a Japanese film featured in the Rotterdam Festival in the early Seventies. The title distils the sense of the street culture that bled from the magic year 1968 into the next decade. The film’s live ‘happenings’ included a punchbag set up in a Toyko street for frustrated business men to swipe at.
In Holland the Sixties street performers were the ‘Provos’ who provoked the bourgeois burghers of Amsterdam with hippy happenings. They invoked the ‘white bicycle’, which meant communal ownerhip of the city’s bikes — just leave it at the end ofyour journey for the next rider. They were also know as ‘The Gnomes’. There were the Dutch women’s liberation street performers, the ‘Dolle Minnas’, who pinched men’s bottoms in public.
Across the border in Brussels, Mass Moving ran their street events for sheer devilment. They filled with concrete a derelict car parked on a meter. to bamboozle the traffic wardens in Bath. After painting people’s shadows pink as they stood on a London pavement, Mass Moving were deported for their cheek. They had carried out the same action in New York, Paris and Toyko, unmolested.
Confrontation (ofideas, of
local authority funding.
expectations) lies at the heart of street theatre. ‘Les evenements’, Paris ’68 style, evolved into the logical Situationist British theatre of ’69. The Agitprop Street Players, formed in London, did ‘picketing plays’. Agitprop appeared at tenants’ disputes, strikes and sit-ins. They later developed into two groups — Red Ladder and Broadside Workers’ Theatre. Other groups specialised in aesthetic confrontation. The People Show set up a continuous line of yellow suitcases, and carried it through city streets. (I have to declare an interest here, in ’71 I contributed to the seven ‘Cyclamen Cyclists’, speeding in single file through Bradford.)
A powerful American influence was the Living Theatre, not just for their shows, but because they lived together as they toured the world. They had babies that grew into the group. They went to prison together. They had no homes to go to.
Street theatre is still international, still at times confrontational. at times aesthetic. In Scotland today’s political issues are as powerftrl as those of the Sixties and Seventies, but dramatic comment hides within the theatre’s three stone walls. The actors in the community street play ‘City’, seen in July in Glasgow’s Tramway, had nearby homes to go to
each night — that was the point of the exercise. Has street theatre edged into the mainstream? The biggest tribe of nomadic groups today is called the Mir Caravane. From May to October ’89, they are touring through East and West Europe. It is a huge enterprise — lorries, caravans, tents, and 10 separate ‘living theatre groups’. They come from Argentina/Italy, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Poland, Russia and Spain. Separately, they have already toured to Africa, Australia, North and South America. The leading English group involved, Footsbarn Travelling Theatre , was founded in Cornwall in 1971. In 1978 they left home, and have been on the road round the world ever since.
Mir Caravane’s philosophy promises: ‘a theatre free and autonomous, closer to the people, more popular’.
They rely on a degree ofeconomic co-operation between East and West. They propose a scenario for the ‘pragmatism of Liberty.’
The French circus group Archaos are the nearest thing to nomadic street theatre in Scotland this summer. Four Archaos performers move on to Glasgow after Edinburgh, for the StreetBiz Festival. Two former Footsbarn fellow-travellers, The Desperate Men, are also in Glasgow.
Archaos can be violently confrontational. or simply spectacular. Much street theatre today has become institutionalised, with agents‘ fees. bookers’ contracts, and brewers’ sponsorship. The politics have gone out the surrealist window.
Institutional. local authority funding, may demand that a theatre group employ local actors. Bath-based Natural Theatre, who were at the Peebles Bear Fair this month and played throughout last year’s Glasgow Garden Festival. on the streets, have teams working in Australia. Canada. and Scotland, each with local performers.
Is it possible to reconcile nomadic. trans-national street theatre and local community projects? Is there a new/old confrontation. anarchy versus community'.’. entertainment versus provocation'.’. scenario versus spectacle“? Whose streets?
Glasgow’s Festival ot street theatre enters its second year with two weeks at music. circus and cabaret— all tree and on a streetnear you.
I Central Station 11-1 1.30am. The Festival kicks off in grand style with big band The Happy End and Zaire‘s The Real Sounds Witch Doctor. plus various street performers.
I Buchanan Street Noon— 1pm. Local street performers entertain the shoppers. I George Square 12.30pm. The Happy End get round to George Square and continue making their big brassy sounds. 1.30pm. Cuba‘s El Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Pineiro. 2.30pm. Unstoppable dance rhythms from The Real Sounds of Africa. 3.30pm. Another Cuban band. Los Munequitos de Matanzas. 4.30pm. The Happy End present their Glasgow Street Band made up of 100local musicians.
I Kelvingrove Partt Noon. Sunday afternoon kicks off with the elusive Surprise International Guest. lpm. C uba’s Los Munequitos dc Matanzas. 2pm. More from The Happy End. 3pm. Another dose of Cuban music from El Septo Nacional de Ignacio Pineiro. 4pm. Dance the afternoon away with Zaire‘s The Real Sounds of Africa.
MONDAY 14 -
I George Square 12.30pm. Les Applicateurs come all the way from France wi ‘t a farcical tale ofhairdressing. I Buchanan Street Noon—2pm. Multi-national circus tricks from High Five.
I Easterhouse Shopping Centre Noon—2pm. Les Macadam Phenomenes perform exciting. eccentric and comic stunts and are joined by Roland Millcrand local performers.
I Buchanan Street 12.30pm. More hairdressing tales from Les Applicateurs. I Easterhouse Shopping Centre 12.30pm. Lunchtime aerial stunts from Les Macadam Phenomenes.
I East Kiloride: Princes Square Noon—2pm. Roland Miller and other local performers join the Happy End’s IOU-strong band of Glaswegian musicians.
I Sauchiehall Street Noon-2pm. Circus entertainment by The High Five.
I George Square 12.30pm. French feats of daring by Les Macadam Phenomenes.
I Sauchiehali Street 12.30pm. French farce by Les Applicateurs.
I Buchanan Street Noon—2pm. The Happy End‘s Glasgow Street Band do their stuff. I Airdrie Cross Shopping Centre Noon—2pm. Circus tricks from High Five with additional entertainment from Roland Miller and local performers.
I George Square 1pm. Les Macadam Phenomenes thrill the crowds from above. I Buchanan Street Noon. Strange French performers Les Applicateurs.
I Three Queens Square. Clydebank Noon—2pm. The Happy End's Glasgow Street Band are joined by Roland Miller and other local entertainers.
I Shawlands Primary School. Polloltshaws Road First performances outside India of The Prahalad Natak Project whose spectacular dance is traditionally performed at festivals. weddings and local celebrations.
8D'I’he List ll — 17 August l98‘)