May 27, 2008

Streets Ahead @ Liverpool

Having only just escaped Belfast's Festival of Fools, I thought that would probably be my random street theatre festival for the year. Nope, for having gone to Liverpool for the Walker Gallery's exhibition Art in the Age of Steam, I found myself slap in the middle of another one. Only this was HUGE, with performances happening every few metres down Liverpool's main shopping streets. This was the Streets Ahead leg of the CAPITAL of Culture programme, again bringing in performances from all over to assault pedestrians and create a carnival atmosphere. There are pictures and reports available at the Liverpool Arts blog.

I didn't stay to watch anything, partly because we were too busy going between the exhibition and the new Indiana Jones movie (don't bother, it's all about aliens). On principle, though, I think this kind of event is a fabulous idea - not for the quality of the individual shows, which are almost by necessity incredible variable, but for the atmosphere it creates in a town area. The impact of upsetting the everyday routine, of confronting people on their shopping trips with in-yer-face art and theatre, generates a unique atmosphere. Whether people love or hate it, it focuses the communal attention, creates shapes out of the formless mass of people and provides a talking point. It would take a lot for me to go out of my way to participate, but it's great that these carnivals are with us and drawing such big crowds.

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Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

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