The List pays a visit to the Streetbiz festival and finds out why its growing reputation amongst the European street festival circuit is justified.
Incredible as it may sound. during the month of August it will be business as usual on the west coast. In spite of the capital‘s efforts to declare itselfthe centre of the known universe outwith whose bounds anything remotely artistic will wither and die. the cultural capital soldiers on. Exactly coinciding with the annual northern migration of those wacky student groups and the occasional Goon. is Glasgow‘s increasineg prestigious Streetbiz festival.
Although the various companies involved will always perform out of doors (an admittedly risky business considering Glasgow‘s precipitous decline into monsoon conditions in 1990), to describe the event as a busker‘s bash would be like calling the Edinburgh Festival a church fete. This year. the quality and innovative nature of the artists surpasses all expectations. Streetbiz will provide a sensory treat for those braving both the climate and performances which will be completely removed from the British theatrical experience. I perused the programme with Streetbiz’s project co-ordinator. Susan Dcighan.
‘I think that what we have to stress is that many ofthese performers have never played in Britain before‘ says Dcighan. ‘Neil Butler (Streetbiz‘s director) and myself have been attending all of the major European street festivals over the past year and have picked the best in Europe in order that we can show the Glasgow audience how exciting street theatre can be. Also. Streetbiz’s reputation has grown so fast that the groups now often approach us first and ask that we come and see them. Streetbiz is increasingly becoming part of the European street festivals circuit.‘
()fthe Europeans. it is the French contingent which predominates. Those familiar with Archaos will have some idea of what to expect. although the breathtaking visual elements ofthat circus group will be complemented by complex storylines. Malabar combine classic circus skills ofstilt walking and acrobatics with an elaborate tale of the triumph ofgood over evil. The percussive music which French theatre has developed into a high art form will. ofcourse. be ever present.
Ilotopie remove the barriers between audience and performers although they will still be clearly
“The List 10— lo August 1990
visible as they mingle with the crowds. ()ne of their shows — Les (iens De (‘ouleurs — as anyone with a smattering of French knowledge may have guessed. involves the members of llotopie appearing in fetching outfits ofalmost audiny loud body paint and very little else. La Mousse en Cage features several members ofthe companv locked in a cage with slow-setting foam until. i finally. all movement is impossible. This all sounds very intriguing but can a British audience which consistently shows the most conservative oftheatrical tastes be expected to warm to something so radical‘.’
‘I know that it will be a completely positive reaction.‘ says Dcighan. "l’he companies aren't aggressive. they are just presenting something entirely new and constantly trying to find new ways ofpresenting innovative performance. Hopefully the fact that they have at last come to Britain will spark interest in this type oftheatre. Glaswegian groups will develop and soon be invited to perform on the continent. 'l'hat‘s whv we don‘t want the whole programme to be purely international — it‘s got to represent Scotland and, Britain as well.‘
Loath as Streetbiz organisers are to discuss goings on elsewhere in August. the shadow of Edinburgh hangs over all other events this month. I wondered ifthere was any anxietv about the pilfering of possible (ilasgow audiences bv the better established festival. '
"l‘here's never been a great tradition of (ilaswegians going to the Edinburgh Festival.
The only worry which we have about audiences is quite ironic. Because the shows are all free. there's almost less incentive for people to go along. 'l‘hey haven‘t spent a tenner on a ticket so they may forget about the show.’
‘We can use the Fringe to our own advantage because a lot ofstrect performers go up to Edinburgh each year. We're planning to go over there and invite them to Streetbiz. Afterall. we'll pay them. whereas they've got to rely on the generosity ofthe crowds in lidinburgh.‘
With the excellent year-round buskers not having to worry about the local constabulary and some cabaret orientated British acts. (ilasgow's streets should be buzzing with activity throughout the day and into the night. 'l'he final evening performance is by yet another French group — ( ~u/lectif()rganttm — who will be building their performance environment next to l ligh Street Station for the week before their one-off show on lh’ August. l’art ofthcir ‘city within a city’ will be made of Slit) doors collected throughout the (ilasgow area. ’l'he performance should be unmissable. as Susan Dcighan explains.
‘We‘re hopefully going to collect as many doors as the company need. We‘ve told everybody who donates one that there is no way that they‘ll get them back. Aside from that. there's nothing else that I can say but it will be very spectacular.‘ (Jonathan (Tolin)
See Streetbiz Listings in Theatre Section for performance details.