A Night at the Pictures is a couple of months gone and the summer has well and truly started. That can only mean one thing. It is the Summer Season...street theatre.
One of my other hats is as a street performer and this is my fourth Summer Season. So far I have been in Orpington, Lambeth, Newbury, Oldham, Chelmsford, Leyton, Suffolk and more to come. On the street you are performing to the whole of society; from babies to the elderly, you meet everyone. It is fair to say that many of these people don’t go to the theatre much. This could be down to the price, location or the little voice in their head saying ‘it's not for me,’ but many of them don’t.
However when they are put face to face with performance there is no time to think about it, there is no price. They have a performer in front of them. Nine times out of ten, they are engaged, they know the rules. They have fun. Of course you get the odd time where you are told to F off or to stop being so stupid. But you come to expect that...you are on the street...you are sharing a space with real life. I often get that when I am not performing. The important thing here is that most people get it. Most people enjoy it. And that is people. Not just those that can afford an extortionate amount to be interacted with in an empty building. All people.
Another thing I have noticed this year is how down people outside of wealthy areas are on where they live. This of course does not apply to everyone. But with an act I helped create for Circadian Troupe called the Art Critics we go around and claim that everything is a beautiful work of art. Doing this in some areas we recieved resistance to the idea. With comments like ‘There is nothing nice around here’ and ‘no beauty here’. In another show I perform in called Sweet Smell of Success, for Bureau of Silly Ideas we are a team of scientists looking to extract the smell of success from people. We get comments like ‘Success? here’ and ‘You should go somewhere else’.
This sense of negativity and almost resentment towards one's hometown is both sad and dangerous. It is especially dangerous when we seem to be living in a time when the powers that be do not care about current inhabitants of areas if they can get richer people in. Street art can make changes to areas and peoples relationships to them. There is a fantastic article about Bureau of Silly ideas that talks through this idea here.
With Slap Haddock we aim to deal with these two ideas. We want to make high quality, engaging, accessible theatre that is not just for those that can afford the top theatre prices. We want to do it where people live and about where they live. This is important to us, because if we can help make people think more positively about their area or even love where they live through knowledge of a shared history, it could give them the ownership and drive to fight for things in their area and take control of things within it. We also hope that if people find themselves enjoying theatre then maybe the ‘It’s not for me' voice might get a bit quieter (and we can all have that little bit more fun while we're at it).
So go out and enjoy the summer sun and soak up all the wonderful things that your streets have to offer!