Tuesday, 27 September 2011
I have just come back from being dazzled at the 5th anniversary performance of Wicked and have to say I really enjoyed it. We are so lucky to still be able to see such magnificent big stage productions, and it really looked as though the cast were enjoying themselves. Obviously the stage I have chosen is the street however it hasn't always been the case. The performance today transported my thoughts into a time when I auditioned for a part in a large pantomime production, a story I have never written down but it truly was another of those surreal times, and now as the memories have flooded back I thought I would share.
It started around July 2010 with an announcement at the local juggling club, they spoke of an audition for a part in the Sheffield pantomime, and the pay was £3,000 for the month run. I totally jumped at the chance and got the contact details. I found out that the position was through a local circus association and I would first have to go and impress them. So I packed all my stuff in a bag and off I went to my first ever juggling audition. I arrived and met with a very peculiar man, unmistakably what I have come to call a 'circus type'.
'Hi I'm James' he introduced, 'I am similarly James' I replied to try and break the ice with a rubbish joke, which was met by an uncomfortable smile of acceptance. He told me about the act for about 10 minutes and I had to say I really wasn't listening at all, instead I was looking behind him at all the circus equipment. The place was a converted church and was a magnificent view to somebody so excited by circus as I. The ceiling was dominated by a steel structure attached to which were all sorts of ropes and cables meant for the use of trapeze artists, one of whom was practising in the corner, squashing herself into uncomfortable but some how beautiful stances. 'so would you like to show me what you can do?' I quickly turned my attention back to the reason I was here and juggled 3,4,5 juggling balls and showed off some 3 and 4 club juggling, 5 was out of my reach.
'well it looks like you can juggle.' he said
'Thanks.' I replied as I had no idea how to answer this obvious statement which gave nothing away.
'The audition is on Thursday, just don't drop' he said without a hint of a smile
That was it I was through to audition for my first ever professional juggling gig. This could be it, this could be the start of my juggling career. I started to fantasise about what I may be doing in the show. My head filled with colourful images which by no coincidence were similar to what you may expect from a Cirque du Soleil show which as you may have already gathered I am rather obsessed with.
Going back out into the corridor I was met by 5 other hopefuls for the role. Some of which I knew from the juggling club and some who were new but defiantly what I call 'circus types'. Just like with any interview we talked very uncomfortably, knowing that actually we are all rivals. Probing questions were being asked into our skills. Questions asked in a tone that was to fain interest were designed to find out what they were in fact up against. Slowly we started being asked into the room to show them what we could do. I waited there, I could hear what was going on in the room next door but without going to the bit of glass in the window I would be unable to see. The sound of dropping props was a welcome sound however, and ever now and again my ears were treated by the sound, each time I would get less nervous. I was called in. The table was now laid out in a line with 3 people behind watching me, the first was James from the circus school, the second was the director and his wife next to him. I took a deep breath and...
Part 2 here
Posted by James at 16:21
Monday, 26 September 2011
For as long as I can remember I have loved watching variety acts. I remember as a child being shouted from my bedroom by my parents whenever they happened to stumble across such an act on the television. I'd tear down the stairs and sit and watch the usually very short performance, my head filled with wonder I would return to my room to practice my own skills.
However, obviously the holy grail would be getting to see these people in the flesh, and growing up in Lincoln, UK, the times when I came face to face with these people were incredibly rare. After my move to Sheffield there was much the same story, in fact I cannot remember seeing one juggler performing in the high street the whole 5 years I lived there?
Unfortunately I have recently been finding out that the reason for this modern day scarcity of street performers is not from lack of trying on the performers part. In this sue friendly world there is great fear of the street performer, not from the public you understand, they are still yearning to watch these quirky acts, no, its the local councils. You can understand their problem, problems which are usually caused by a minority of street entertainers who ruin it for the rest of us by skipping public liability insurance or just playing a penny whistle and begging, problems which appear to have lead us into this situation. The major injustice is that these rules don't cause hassle to these individuals as they are more than happy to ignore all the procedures and perform anyway. The people who get all the forms, endless passing to an increasing number of departments within council buildings are the honest ones, and many decide there is no point. The people who loose out the most are the public, no doubt missing out on seeing some amazing things.
London for example is a very locked down place, when walking around you can nearly smell the by-laws all over the place to rid the world of our terrible menace. However, there are a few options I have heard about and today was my day to try out for the world famous Covent Garden.
It might shock you to learn that you cannot just go to the market with your act and expect to be able to perform without some security guard throwing you out. No, you actually have to go through an audition process, this is what I did today and follows is my account of it. There is little information about what to expect at such an audition so I hope this will be useful.
Monday morning, a day I should have been at work but I booked off a day especially to audition. I didn't have to apply to audition, I simply sent them an email indicating my interest and they sent me a link to their website which had a list of days when they take place (link to audition times). I am starting to get used to the feeling I get in the morning, the feeling of really not wanting to put myself through yet another stressful ordeal, my mind hunting for reasons to put it off, nothing a quick youtube search for Cirque du Soleil videos cannot fix.
I grab my props, throw them into my bag, get my outfit on and head for the tube. I have to say I do quite like being seen in public dressed in my show outfit. The quizzical looks I get from the fellow man are nothing but entertaining, and tend to follow the same pattern each time. A quick look across, a double take at the chap wearing a bright red jacket, look straight at the props with a very confused if a little concerned look, then move eyes to face to see if this person is crazy, notice I am also watching them, queue head whip away and ridiculous gesture to make it appear they were never looking in the first place. Genius every time!
I got to the market at 10:00pm, half an hour before the auditions were set to start. I have no idea where I am supposed to be going so I just walk into the centre and decide to grab a drink. After getting no useful information from the chap serving I decide to walk around looking for colourful characters again. Just then I get tapped on the back by somebody in a similar situation. Great, two of us now, safety in numbers. This chap, I think he was called Jake (sorry if I got it wrong) was a guitarist looking to find somewhere to practice 'and if I get some coins in the process, all the better'.
Eventually we bumped into another chap with a whole lot of equipment, I went over to try and see if he had any further information. He was indeed another auditionee, a friendly chap by the name of Claude. He did indeed know where we were meant to be! The pitch for the audition was inside the market, in a square surrounded by benches, really a great place for performing, I was still far too nervous too think such things at that time however.
A few more people started to join at this point, all in their own little groups around the area. I met two lovely girls, professional singers, also hoping for the golden yes. There was definitely excitement in the air, everybody was interested to see what the other was going to do, and everybody confused as to the lack of any judges?
Queue serious looking people, unquestionably the judges. There must have been around 6 or 7 of them. They were introduced, however I was far too on edge to be able to remember any of them. I do remember that they all had their own areas of interest, and I believe they mentioned one of them was a street performer. I think this is a great touch, to have somebody who no doubt is a successful street performer, somebody who knows how it feels to get up and shout about is almost comforting.
Forms were then handed out, these were basically just contact information and a brief description of your act, in which I just wrote 'Juggler' in the large box, very descriptive I thought. There was a brief introduction from one of the judges and then the first act was called. Each act is given 3 minutes, after which the website states that they will be stopped, and they ain’t joking, go over and they stop you, so the importance to have something which fits in that time is paramount. Fortunately most songs last around 3 minutes so the musical artists found no problems with this restriction. However my act usually lasts around 40 minutes if you include time to get to know the audience, O dear. I decided to blast 5 balls quick, shout around, grab a volunteer and do my act finale, all in 3 minutes?
Getting up for my slot I did just that, and ignoring the slight hiccup when my stilt came undone, probably due to rushing I think it went as well as I could have done in the time. A few claps and off I went.
It really did go that quick, I cannot write a paragraph bigger I'm afraid. Happily not a compère this time however I then did get to watch the rest of the acts and relax. The other acts were all fantastic, the standard is incredibly high. Amazingly talented opera singers, Classical musicians playing their instruments to perfection and acrobats that really wouldn't be out of place in Cirque. I was the only juggler which was nice as there was no direct comparison. Officially I have no idea how it went as they don't tell you on the day if you are accepted or not, they actually write an email to you within a week, it is all very organised.
Although there were no yeses given out on the day, unfortunately there were a few nos. The first was to Jake who was told no before the audition as they only accept classical and variety acts, however they did mention some other alternative to apply for to get pitches around the outside. The only other I know of was Claude as his act required amplification. This is a massive shame, this guys act was my absolute favourite, I have no idea how to start to explain his act so I have embedded a video at the bottom of this post which also gives a bit of background. His website can be found at http://www.sonicmanipulator.com. Hopefully if you haven't already you will be lucky enough to one day see him perform.
The audition finished around 12:00ish and everybody dispersed. Yet again on the Tube home total strangers spoke to me because I was dressed so garishly. This time I met somebody who had just gone to Buckingham Palace and somebody gave me a poem. The life of a street performer is surreal.
The other day
There was rain -
But all its mighty work
was in vain :
I had the thought that
You were a friend of mine -
And my whole world
Love and best wishes,
Shakil Dawood, Monday, 06/06/2011, 6:16pm
Posted by James at 10:16
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
As I think I have already said somewhere along in my ramblings I have moved to London. There is something very charming about London and I have definitely found it a great place to call home. Being a country lad I am very used to thinking about the scary London with no grass, however this appears to be not the case at all! There are bloody loads of massive parks, and parks that are packed full of happy friends sharing time together.
London is packed full of things to do however I think you are hard pressed to find a better thing to do than juggling in one of the many parks. The picture above was taken at Greenwich Park and has to be one of the best views of the city. Obviously I spend my time at the parks practising, and its great to practice in front of people, I find it helps build my confidence, especially as quite often people will stop and watch (they never bloody do when you want them to!!!). Annoyingly you cannot busk in these areas, no matter how much the building crowds basically beg you to!
But I have noticed something about the parks in London, something that is just simply not the case in Sheffield where I used to live...
I am the only juggler?
What? How can this be? There are bloody loads of people here, some of them must be strange enough to want to chuck stuff about? No I am still yet to bump into anybody and am the only strange circus boy clown in the park?
Posted by James at 13:44
Sunday, 18 September 2011
I walk on stage, everything is quiet, I am the first to venture to this nerve-racking position since the place filled up with people, and now I stand there and instantly forget everything I was supposed to say. Eventually I found some words and blurted them out as slowly as I could, I am already aware the crowd probably have noticed my lack of confidence and is slightly wishing me to fail. I quickly glance to the side while still gibbering something along the lines of
'welcome everybody, there are some people I don't know...' the usual bullshit that is so obviously overused.
As soon as I pick up my clubs already I feel better, I find some confidence from holding the familiar objects which are now acting as a comfort blanket. Knowing the a fair few people in the crowd are not jugglers I begin with a quick explanation of juggling, and show a few tricks, prompting them to react with noises such as ooohhh and ahhhhh. However, the first double I throw I get totally wrong, it falls to the ground, there is tension in the air, this is the point that all jugglers hate and it has come a point where I am already dying! However, this was probably the first thing that has happened that shoots me back to my performing mode, I instantly interject the sympathetic moans and disappointed groans with
'no no no no you have never seen this before, that might be right? I'm just showing you how hard it is to do these tricks so that when you see the acts you will be more appreciative.' My first big laugh, a breakthrough!
Wow, where the hell did that come from? I had no bloody idea but I made a mental note and carried on. I had an idea that I was going to assign different tricks different noises from the crowd and then once established switch about to hopefully comic effect. Double is Ahhhh, behind the back I tell them is ohhhhh and quickly test with a throw. A lady in the front row makes a crazy noise, I stop quickly and just stare in horror, gets a laugh, second one and both to this point for things I wouldn't be able to plan for. I assign a gasp to the next trick and show them the under the leg move. I try it, it goes well. Knowing I can do this over and over I think at this point sod it lets see what happens if I continue this over and over, I had no real plan for this but in my head I thought its probably a good idea. So I execute continuous under the legs and another girl in the front row attempts to gasp at every one thrown to the point it sounds like she is hyperventilating, so I quickly stop and tell her to breath as if I were a doctor. Third laugh and all so far is pure luck. I make a mental note to create an act around this with a paper bag and move on.
Obviously being the compère I have a job that I have never had before, usually at this point I just walk off and that's me done for the night, beers follow and I get to sit and watch the other acts, but this time I have to carry on with the show. My next job is to introduce the first act which is a trapeze act with two people, quite interesting and impressive. There is just one problem, I have to say who it is that is coming on, and even though they are called Duncan and Nicky for some reason they have decided to turn their stage name into the bloody tongue twister that is Eric gecko and Pixey Nicksy. What? Why? I spent most of the pre-show just repeating the impossibly difficult to say name but still tended to get it completely wrong. Anyway I prepare myself and talk even slower than ever (any slower and I'd stop) and manage to recite the complex name, large clap and off I go.
Off stage I am already sweating, wearing a sort of mock ring leader outfit and show shirt is rather hot at the best of times. I look at the running order I have written down which says all the things which I am going to do. I really have no acts prepared except for my street show finale which is my only ace. The first act finishes and I grab the next props to pathetically hide behind and walk back on.
I plaster a massive smile across my face to disguise the fact I am still terrified and start talking what can only be described as absolute bollox! I have prepared lots of jokes but have yet to get them to the front of my thoughts while on stage. Anyway I pull out a football and show them I can spin it on my finger, this gets a few titters but despite the fact that not one of the people watching would have a cat in hells chance of being able to do such a thing or possessing the shear will power required to pick it up, everybody acts like its nothing, we are really spoilt by TV. I pull two juggling balls out my pocket and just juggle them with the football, pretty dull and they know it, I get totally no clap what so ever! I say 'yes yes I know 3 is easy', 'yeah' comes from a man sitting in the front row. HA I instantly grab him and say, 'this man thinks 3 is easy' and pass him the props. This really is a win win for me, he can either drop it and I get them laughing or he can juggling them and I get them cheering and to his credit he juggled them quite well. However, I wasn't going to let him show me up, the next thing I decide to use him for is to show how good I am, this is cruel but he heckled me so I won't loose sleep. I pass him another ball and tell him to do all four, he obviously fails, this isn't easy. At this point he basically runs back to his seat, I think about getting him back but think sod it. I juggle the 4 and get a few claps, but no cheers as I think they feel sorry for the other chap. I pull out another ball and tell them I am going to do all 5. This trick is something I came up with while in a park with friends. When going to a park with friends it is basically a law of mine that I need to bring juggling toys to play with, and my friends have a similar theory with footballs. One day I was just prating about and juggled 4 juggling balls and a football. This is NOT easy, in fact it is rather ruddy difficult as there isn't a great deal of space for the football. Another problem with the stunt is that when it goes wrong it looks very spectacular as all the juggling balls bounce off the mid-air football in all directions and surprising speed. Anyway I didn't have any other ideas so thought it was ready for the big stage. I start to juggle, things are going well, 10 catches, 15, football up high, catch all balls and football follows, massive clap, the first one I had planned in the night, introduce he next act which is a dog act (it can't fail).
Back stage I am basically soaking at this point and try and wipe it off to make it not look so bad. The dog act sounds like its going well. This is the last act before the interval due to the fact that for some reason we only have 4 bloody people performing and 2 of the performances are the same people!
I walk back on, and just clap as I walk on looking very happy. 'Told you you'd love it' I exclaim. I then forget everything I was going to do next and get flustered, I think it totally showed, I have still yet to develop a defence to this lack of thought. I know that when comedians get this they just slowly and casually walk over to their little table and take a drink of water and compose and go. Well I think that amount of rational thinking must come much much later because I just chose to make some sort of thinking noise, something like errrrr. Hello uncomfortable feeling and tension, missed you. I rabbit something about nobody wanting to see jugglers juggle clubs, because everybody actually just wants to watch us die, gets a strange tone of laugh, the tone that feels judgemental. So I just ignore it and continue, ' no people want danger', Person shouts 'fire', another plucks up the courage to shout 'chainsaws', well I say courage, what I actually mean is cowardly confidence. I laugh and say they wont let me do that inside, urgh, anyway I grab some knives, I think I heard about 2 gasps. I go on to say that people don't just expect juggling knives any more and want something much more, so I told them I had to adapt the act. Well this is what my mind was telling them to tell them, what I actually said was just the odd word I'm sure, I have no idea if anybody had any bloody clue what I was saying to be honest, but at least I was giving them something to look at. I grab a stilt, it calms me as I am now in my act. I tell them I cant afford the other bla bla. I go out to find someone from the crowd who can help me. I see two chaps obviously friends and I just stare at one of them until one of them looks, I say 'hey hows it going?' He looks away, then looks at his friend like I was looking at him, this goes on for about 20seconds. 'which one?' one eventually enquires as they have now confused the selection. 'which ever bullies the other the most.' I offer back, and I have literally no idea where this little gem comes from but its noted for future picking on people. He comes out and I go through the act without a hitch and gain a big big clap then announce a 20 minute interval.
At this point I have made the decision that I am staying back stage. All the other performers are going into the crowd and back to backstage constantly. I personally hate this, I think it ruins performances. I think the people who are doing a show should stay existing in the mind of the audience as existing in the little show world until the end. I lie down on the mats that are cluttering the side space. I start to really wander what the heck I am going to to do next. I know that the last trick is really my best trick and now I have basically run out of props? My initial idea was to come out without my jacket on, and as my show shirt looks Spanish play the Spanish music I had prepared and just mess about as if I were a flamenco dancer. Another thing I wanted to try was spin a ball on my finger, transfer it to a knife end and juggle two knives in the remaining free hand. This is a new trick, and is incredibly hard to pull off consistently on a good day, let alone when I am shaking from nerves. I ditch the idea. I scrabble around in my bag and find another juggling ball, great 5 balls, lets show them some crazy hard juggling trick to blow their stupid juggle muggle minds. I decide to do a siteswap, this trick put simply is juggle 5 balls, throw one high juggle the remaining 4 in the 4 pattern and when the high ball comes down let it rejoin into a seamless 5 ball pattern, to a non juggler its magic, to a juggler its impressive and its my best trick.
I walk out, I freeze, I forget what I'm doing, I don't really say anything, I just say hello really then stroke the frills on my shirt pulling a face to match, this gets a laugh and an ohhhh which was unexpected. 'Does anybody want a go?' I enquire, the host says yes and I go up to her and let her touch and give her a little flower I have in my mouth and get awwwws. Note to self to include this in street show but without asking if they want to touch, just make them. I then quickly get to my juggling act. I pull the 5 balls out of my pocket and announce I'm going to do a hard trick. I start to talk them through it.
First I am going to juggle 5 balls, and you are all going to go crazy.
Then I will throw one ball up high
I will continue to juggle the other four
The high ball will then rejoin and I will continue.
I know at this point they have no idea what I just said but sod it. I start my five ball juggling and notice nobody made any noise. I stop and reiterate 'when I juggle 5 you will go crazy', I get a laugh which gives me confidence. This time when I juggle 5 I get a cheer, better. I go to throw the high ball and they all go wrong and I drop, I get an arrrr and a clap, 'I don't need your pity' I instantly interject to massive laughs. At this point in the show the best laughs have come from when I dropped? I try again and the trick goes okish but I don't pull off the reintroduction of the 5th ball. I catch them and save it, people clap but I tell them to wait as that isn't it. 'I may regret that' I state. However This time I pull it off without a hitch, and enjoy my clap all the more. I introduce the next act and sod off quickly.
The next thing I have to do is the fancy dress bit. People were told to come dressed as their childhood dream professions. I didn't have any plans for this but I am then given two prizes to hand out, one for best and one for least imaginative, which I change in my head to worst effort because I think it would be funnier.
End of act and on I go again, this time just to be different I didn't freeze at all and was full of confidence. Yeah, OK real world, I froze again, even forgot what was going to even happen next but eventually it came back and I told people to volunteer themselves and struck a pose. People had clearly made effort and wanted to join in but not one of them were moving, nobody wants to be the first. I decide I am just going to hold the pose until somebody bloody moves and eventually somebody gets up, I clap them as if they are so bloody courageous. And just as the 'nobody wants to be first' rule dictates the rest start volunteering straight after. I line them up and notice I have a problem, and that problem is that I have no bloody idea what it is they are. 'Talk us through your outfit.'
'I am a Star-Trek person' she offers, 'Generic Star-Trek person' I announce to the crowd
I have no idea what the other is even now but she just kept screaming 'I am NOT wonder woman' I move on.
'I am Link from Legend Of Zelda' and I am a nerd and her (yes her) costume was pretty good. 'Something nerdy' I announce.
The next started a massive rant about pixies and something about a missing leg, she just went on for absolutely ages, she was obviously enjoying her 5 minutes. I pull a face, look at the crowd 'Jeez I didn't want a life story' to big laughs which I enjoyed for the first time.
The next chap is stage manager, he performs a bit and is not shy. 'Does anybody know who I am?' he asks the crowd, 'TOPGUN' came back, I would have just said, man in glasses myself but o well, 'No...' I put dots as he just started talking about some planes thing that I really had no idea what he was on about, I think he was giving hints but I decide enough is enough. 'Something about planes' big laugh.
The next chap had really gone to town, he was sporting an elephant trunk made of a stuffed grey sock, ears made from coat hangers and full grey clothing. I walk over to him, and to my delight hidden under the trunk he had a party blower to be the trunks noise, massive laugh from the crowd. I milk it by looking like I can't even stand or say anything because he has knocked me for six with his humour, I think they enjoy it.
'I am a robot, not a washing machine.' I had nothing to say about this really, and just mutter a bit. I go back down to the end and say I am going to do a clapometer. This goes well and eventually we have our winner, elephant boy.
Next I just went out to get some people who were crap, picked a friend with a bin bag on her head which was meant to be a chef hat, 2 chaps that just showed up in football gear, great they are obviously football players anyway so not really a good costume and to my delight somebody got up of their own accord. I go over to talk to the first, and the crowd love her costume and start shouting out. They really do turn on you quick. I feel like they are telling me I am horrible for picking her, how dare I after so much effort, I dismiss her to try and give them closure. On to the next chap, he gets a tiny cheer, next one also small, the next guy was one I had already used as a volunteer so I said 'we go way back' gets a titter, but he gets a small laugh. The next chap was dressed in a suit and holding an Etchasketch. I had to ask him what he was meant to be. 'An Architect' he replies. 'Are you an architect' as enquire, 'no I'm a software engineer'. 'did you wear that to work today?' I ask, and he doesn't answer really. 'What is that logo on your lepel? Is that where you work' 'no that is cancer research' he replies. O god, great, how did I not know that? This really is hard ground to tread, no idea what to do I move on as quick as possible but the damage. I clapometer him and give him the prize knowing that I have made it through the show, this was the end and I made it.
Being a compère was full of ups and downs was tiring. I would do it again, I learnt a lot but I found it scary as hell! It's not really anything like doing an act, you really can never relax the entire night, and at some level you are the person that can make or break the show.
Posted by James at 14:08
Saturday, 3 September 2011
So today I finally went out and did it!
Hello, My name is James and I am a juggler. I am aware that that sentence sounds like my introduction to a juggling self help group. I have been a juggler since I was around 7 years old, and 19 years later (depressing number) I love it more than ever. First I want to say that I am no stranger to performance, however mostly the shows I have been part of were for friends or as part of a fire troupe which gave unstructured performances, rather like background performance and they didn't really get a great reception. I recently just moved to London which has been incredibly scary, and so why in gods name I decided that I'd tackle these nerves by the petrifying act of street performance is still a bit beyond me but today I went out and did it, follows is an account of how I got there and how it went.
People really have no idea just how difficult it is to actually get to the point of actually being able to street perform, at least that has been my experience so far. After a tiny bit of research I found out that street performance in London is illegal, which is rather frustrating given that every time I practice in one of the zillions of parks, the public stop and comment. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, most notably Covent Garden, a place which so far I have been to every weekend, can't believe my luck having such a place within a few stops. However, to perform at Covent Garden you need two things. Firstly you are required to audition, which is something that I haven't done yet. And second and most importantly, you have to not be as utterly petrified of that big stage and high expectation of the multinational crowd as I am.
I started looking further afield for places to perform, contacting multiple councils requesting permission. Time and time again I was told I require PLI (public liability insurance). This basically appears to tick boxes in this ridiculous health and safety gone mad sue culture we are stuck with. So I did a bit of research and got myself cover. Once it was through I simply passed the information on to the relevant councils and I was ready to go. Yeah right, like that would happen. No I was met with the response, 'hmmmmm we think it is a bit too dangerous', so what the use of the PLI is I have no idea. Luckily eventually I found some supportive council members who granted me permission to perform. The whole process took around a month and around £200!
During that month I did lots of research and planned an act as best I could, basically picking the best and most ludicrous things I can perform and incorporating them. However, time and time again I read articles which said, you just need to go do it and your material will follow, I vouch for this as I must have used around 2% of the jokes I prepared during my first run.
So the day came, and I woke up and all of a sudden I felt incredibly nervous and found myself instantly trying to think of possible reasons I couldn't go through with it. I forced myself up and into my performance outfit, something that I made myself which basically is white and green stripe and makes me look rather a lot like a toothpaste salesmen. I grabbed my props and left the house. For me this is where the performance started. Walking from my door to the tube got a lot of attention, people trying to sneak a look at this strange sight who appeared OK walking around in a humbug suit. The tube was no different, I had people going past me on the escalators and instantly turning round to scan my face, presumably looking for signs of insanity? What started as a self conscious experience however quickly turned into pride. I could see everybody else, they all looked the same, they were all doing the same thing, doing what people expect of them, then there was me, obviously different, and this made me incredibly proud.
Lugging my props around was hard work but I finally landed in Kingston. I had never been before so I was instantly lost, and when I'm lost I tend to follow the largest crowd of people and before I knew it I had found a pitch in the middle of the high street. O shit!
Now close to heart attack I began to set up my props, and looked as interested in the procedure as possible, Unfortunately I was the only one who was as once ready I still had no crowd or interested onlookers. It was at this point I knew what I had to do, I had to shout my mouth off in the middle of this crowded street. My heart felt like it was going to come through my chest and everything inside me started to fight this decision, I felt hard wired to shut the hell up. I ignored this.
'Hello Kingston, I am James and I am about to risk my life for your amusement!'
This got peoples attention!
For about a second as they carried on walking. I still had no crowd. I continued to shout about the fantastic feats I was going to perform to them during my impending show to no avail. I was going to have to grab people. I picked up my knives, held them as if in a bunch and went up to a passer by and...
'Hello, I have got you some flowers,' which got a laugh but no takers.
'Hello sir, do you want to see an amazing show? Because I hear there is one happening around here soon?' He replied with something about not having time. I got that response a lot.
'Hey you, don't avoid me I don't have a clipboard!' This one worked, and my first audience members were in place. Although I have read that I shouldn't start without a full front row I figured I really just needed to start and see how a show went so onwards and upwards. I have no idea how but then all of a sudden my inner clown bounded out of me. I started acting and saying things I had not rehearsed, my nerves started to fall away and things started to fall in place. Having said that the beginning of my show was horrible, and felt very boring for both me and the audience so I thought I'd keep things short and cut to the end. My finale went down well and I was happy with the audience participation I had. I collected money from my now favourite crowd members and sat down happy with myself having got through my first show.
It was then I noticed that all the work I had done to get people interested in my show was going to have to be redone. These parts of the show were by far the hardest and most tiring of my time street performing today. I stuck with it.
After four shows, I was already exhausted and my voice was starting to feel it also. I was saved my the heavens at this point as the fantastic English weather put a stop to proceedings. I packed my things and left. Something very strange happened next. I was sat under a tree on a bench just having a drink waiting for the rain to die down. There was a guy opposite me eating some crisps and just chilling also waiting it out, I thought nothing of it. He then got up and offered me the rest of his lunch? I think he saw that I was a street performer and assumed I wasn't able to buy my own. I said no thank you (I didn't like the flavour) but it made me happy to think that people really do care about their fellow man, even if its misplaced.
The trip home also offered me another first. While sat on the tube the person next to me started a conversation, a conversation which soon spread to half of the carriage. Now this may not sound too out of the ordinary but the entire time I've lived in London I have not had 1 conversation with a stranger on the Tube, in fact even to accidentally give eye contact appears to be a social crime. But here I was having a great conversation with these people and finding out about their lives. I found out one owns a company and is fed up of working too much. Another girl was even more fed up with things and was putting things in place to move to Australia to follow her dreams of opening a coffee shop.
I got home and obviously was interested to see how much money I made. I wasn't really expecting much for my first time, but I was rather happy to see that in the hour or so that I performed I had made around £30, and I could not have done it without you guys, I'm sure that I would have been juggling and watching people ignoring my back crosses.
Today will go down as one of the best days of my life and I will certainly be continuing my journey into this exciting and incredibly rewarding activity.
Posted by James at 13:26