May 10, 2008

The Festival of Fools in Belfast

I was in Belfast last week for my younger brother's wedding, and had a bit of time spare for a day exploring the city. This was May 4th, right in the middle of Belfast's Festival of Fools, which sees performers come from around the world for several days of street performances and happenings.

I didn't get a chance to stop and watch any individual performances, but in many ways I'm glad I didn't. What I got instead was a day of walking round the city and having several random encounters with bizarre people - overheard shouts, men in crazy costumes, a small group here crowded round a tightrope, a cowboy over there entertaining children. It was a fascinating festival, with an almost guerilla feel - events weren't signposted, there weren't any 'Festival of Fools' banners or billboards, there was just entertainment happening around every corner.

A few that I caught were Leaping Louie, the aforementioned cowboy, Pete Sweet, another American who was winding up his tightrope/unicycle climax when we passed, the extremely funny Edmund Tahl, carrying a suitcase which periodically let off bloodcurdling screams causing him to run down the street, and the irritating St Joan's Ambulance, a pair of faux medics who interrupted our bus tour.

I only mention the Festival because it's under threat, having been unable to secure funding for next year. It seems a real shame, as from what I saw of the Festival it was a fun and highly interesting undertaking, that was genuinely engaging people of all ages in free theatre. I only hope that some private sponsors step up, as it would be very sad for Belfast to lose it.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Shirley Millar

    Hi completely agree with you. Lots of chance encounters, happy accidents and urban detours! One lady said it was like Belfast was on holiday. People actually coming into Belfast to holiday. The performers really knew how to work the crowds, the girls from Ozstar would get my vote but so did The Pitts..we’re a live show so we need a live audience….please?!

    18 May 2008, 12:55


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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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