Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Illustrated Woodford 3: Off to the Circus!

When I say that I'm a horizontal recruit to the Woodford Folk Festival, I mean it, in the sense that I would never have ever gone if it wasn't for the fact that the man I love has been every year since it started. He's not a folkie, he's a circus and juggling junkie. A lot of our Woodford time is spent hanging around the circus tents and stages, appreciating how many clubs someone can toss, or how slick their act is, or how amusing their patter. I've always loved circuses, but it's a whole new world hanging out with someone who can watch one critically and come away telling me what was wrong with it. Consequently I'm getting quite fussy about live acts.

One big regret about this year is that I was just too buggered to stay up late and so I missed some really good stuff. I missed Terry the Great and Family's latest show, the All Star Fish. I have seen them a few times, so I can live with that. What I do regret is missing an act called 61 Acts in 60 Minutes with Circa. All reports are that it was spectacular. And Rumple wasn't there this year! Bummer.

I saw half of Bulldust and Spangles with Top Chick, an all-women show. Actually, I saw probably a quarter of it then fell asleep thanks to a completely tedious S&M roleplaying acrobatic act and BB woke me a few acts later and we walked out. Nice try, but no banana from me. I did take a nice photo (to add to my circus shadows collection) of the shadows during one overly-long hanging-from-twirly-material act, so at least something nice came from the experience.

There was a fair bit of circusy stuff to see around the streets, including the marvellous Whacko and Blotto, who only come out way after dark, sitting in their caravan and doing whatever the hell they feel like, with all manner of props including a giant chicken head puppet and sundry bottles of alcohol.

The circus highlight for me was Bewland's Bluegrass Circus. The people who put this together did a great job. It had energy, humour, damn good stunts, and enough narrative to maintain a good pace. A good, tight show. The premise was a family of hillbillies, but Aussie ones, not attempting to put on any grating southern accents. Bewland was the main dude, able to play banjo at at least 145 rpm whilst standing on his head. Also an awesome juggler.
Apparently "Bew" means bad, and "land" means land, so Bewland means the bit of land outside the village that nobody wants, aka "Shitland"

Chicken was his wife, a trapeze artist in a chicken suit. She was mute, just doing a bit of eyebrow action, and she could work that swing. Then there was Grandpa, who sat on stage through the whole show behind a drum kit, playing drums, assorted instruments and interjecting occasionally with tasteful ditties such as

Chicken, Chicken,
She's the one!
I like lickin'
Her brown bum…

Most of the children in my family now chant that gleefully whenever they see a chicken.
Bewland balancing, while Turkey & Chicken look on. Grandpa's at the back, banging his drum.

Another member of the family was Turkey, Bewland's brother, an ace fiddler who talked with an outrageous speech impediment when the lights were up and a suave hollywood voice-over voice when the tent was dark. He used the impediment when performing 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia', rendering it almost indecipherable but highly enjoyable. he also played some kick-ass Stravinsky (if my memory serves me correctly) whilst spinning around the room on a cable.
Turkey in action

Then there was Daisy, Bewland's daughter, played by a gorgeous hunk of a man with the sweetest face, dressed in a blue gingham dress and blonde plaited wig. The storyline included her father buying her a husband on the internet, but when the hubby-to-be jumped out of his packaging it turned out to be her cousin from the next town (argh! can't remember his name!). They fell in love and spent most of the show doing terrific acrobatic and strongman feats whilst pretending to chase each other around and have sex. I adore skilful clowning, and there was plenty of it.
Daisy in love...

There were also a couple of juggling fellows who teamed up with Bewland (as a little digression) as Team Bewlando. Excellent juggling with clubs and they all got to whack whomever dropped the clubs and broke the rhythm. Again, great clowning mixed with high levels of skill.

I have the feeling that this was created exclusively for the Woodford Folk Festival, but I think it would be very successful at other venues. The creative energy behind the show is a team called Strut and Fret, who seem to represent a lot of good alternate acts like the sadly now-defunct Happy Sideshow and Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, so I'm feeling optimistic about future fun things from this arena.

Next time: I'll show you what my visual arts workshops got up to at the Festival! Then I'll shut up about it all and get on with the rest of my life. Mind you, not much else has happened so far (except a brief interaction with some For Battlers yesterday – hooray!)


Anonymous said...

in defense and by means of correction..bulldust &spangles is a circus cabaret of acts. on the night u attended, unfortunately, there was an act which should not have been there (and will not be there in future). the cabaret art form runs a risk of having acts on occasion, that are perhaps of a lesser standard than other acts. the bonus of the cabaret is that u have a new act every 5 mins. top chick is NOT an all women circus, is the name of the company that manages a group of great aust circus theatre performers, plus provides performance opportunities for others who are emerging artists - gives them a stage when possible. it exists to create opportunities and works towards ozzie based circus performers having a chance to earn a living. thanks for your opinion of the show. it is a shame u missed the end acts, on that night. tho it was indeed not the best of the cabaret nights of the season. the act that u dozed off to was a guest act.
your opinion however has been duly noted :). please give them another chance, was the first version of a show that will get better and better. it will be at the ekka this year,likely back at woodford 2006 and yes, there are men in the troupe!(sorry the name is confusing in that regard).

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tammy smith said...

i see that this post was from 2 years ago but i love all the circus pics!
if you're so inclined, please visit my blog and see my circusy folk art:
thanks for the inspiration-
Tammy Smith