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Amsterdam's Festival of Fools Author(s): Ron Blanchette Source: Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Autumn, 1977), pp.

86-90 Published by: Performing Arts Journal, Inc. Stable URL: . Accessed: 09/09/2013 01:39
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to time as still photographs. Le Dernier Bal addresses the increasingly frequent problem of workers being laid off, as factories are sold or abandoned, in a highly unusual style that is a mixture of the absurd, cafe theatre, and documentary theatre. Six characters representing the factory personnel at all levels (from the boss's son to the Algerian immigrant worker) attend an impromptu party in the factory. Their various relationships and personalities become clear as the morning nears and they grow increasingly drunk. The play ends with them being told this is the last party, the last night in the factory- they are all out of work. The spectators are told what happened to each person; then little mechanical mice are set loose on the set. A provocative, sobering piece, it was delivered in such a way that one laughed while feeling uneasy. A stunning, vital protrayal of the forms of alienation and desperation, the pressure and submerged violence which characterizes contemporary life, was provided by the Compagnie Granier/Rauth's production of. Raymond Du Therque's La Surface de Reparation. The language of the play is in itself dynamic and charged with energy, and the virtuoso performances by Christian Rauth and Olivier Granier fully realized its theatrical potential. The story takes place on a highway where two young hitchhikers from different backgrounds wait for a lift. The two are initially violent antagonists but eventually become fast friends as the long wait, the heat, and their hunger encourage them to act out their fanrock musicians or football players. The two young men call tasies-as themselves Sam and Jeff. The set is a backdrop of Coca-Cola bottles, Rolling Stones posters, and piles of junk which are transformed by the two men's fantasies. For instance, an old bicycle wheel becomes an electric guitar. The preoccupations of "Sam" and "Jeff," the posters, the fetish for tennis shoes, the brief exchanges in "American," the products, the music- are all evidence of a cultural imperialism that has penetrated the consciousness of young people to the degree that it alone provides a common vocabulary for expressing and receiving warmth and human companionship. The text is startling, the production formidable. This is the kind of exciting work one would hope to see more of in Avignon.

Festival of Fools
Ron Blanchette
For the third consecutive summer Amsterdam was the scene of the Festival of Fools, the annual event that turns the city into a carnival of clowns, minstrels, puppeteers, street musicians, and fools from all over the world. More than fifty experimental groups from the Netherlands, England, France, U.S.A., and Argentina perform for three weeks (this year June 2 -20) in local flower markets, public plazas, the vast Vondel Park, and three principal theatre spaces-the Shaffy, the Melkweg, and the Paradiso. Sponsored jointly by these three theatres and an American group-the Friends Roadshow and its director Jango Edwards-this seemingly chaotic get together has taken on an orderly and well-run appearance 86

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Waiting for Codot, Onafhankelijk after three years. The scheduling of so many performances (about 200) over the course of eighteen days as well as the running of workshops by the Fools School points to the cheerful dynamic of four groups working jointly and sharing facilities to produce this annual event. For the first time there was housing this year for the troupes. The Acro Hotel was the communal center. Everyone lived and ate together and exchanged performance information. Rooms contained six bunk beds which meant twelve persons per room. And with five floors of rooms and sixty different groups, it was very crowded. Living in the hotel quickly put one in touch with the festival feeling, with clown suits hanging from many doorways, costumes drying out from the previous evening's wash, tired bodies dragging themselves down to the breakfast tables to be revitalized by the morning coffee, and the video tape showing of the last day's performances.

Last Sunday, Los Angeles Mask Theatre


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But why a Festival of Fools? Jango Edwards puts it this way: "The fool is one of the more meaningful characters in theatre history. The fool is the individual who has the ability to communicate to the public information about their past and present, and throw light on the future. The festival provides an outlet for various performers and artists who can present their own individual form of communication in an informal atmosphere where the audience can share ideas, thoughts, and smiles." In a way, this festival of mime, cabaret, and outrageous street theatre has become a distorted image of the better known European summer festivals. It's difficult to describe all the performances since nearly twenty-five events took place each day throughout the city. Performances were scheduled from Wednesday to Sunday. During the evenings 1000 or more people would attend the performances. A $2.50 admission at the door and an animal stamp on the hand allowed entrance into one of the three main theatres and freedom to roam the whole space for the evening, sometimes for as many as eight different performances. Besides the indoor evening performances, daytime events were scheduled around the city, most often in the bandshell in Vondel Park, an environment of open park space, pleasant walkways, and fountains. Along with the many performances there was the Fools School for those interested in learning the various aspects of clowning. Every group was responsible for giving workshops in their particular talent areas: make-up, gesture, ad lib, juggling, puppetry, fire-eating, etc. This year over 150 people joined the Fools School, doubling last year's enrollment.

Graziella Martinez's White Dreams Jango Edwards and the Friends Roadshow with their new production Foolies 77, a multimedia musical review, was clearly the hit of the festival. The show opened with a quick Busby Berkeley song and dance number and changed into a leather-clad fantasy trip called "Butchy Boy and the Free Buffet." It was 88

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followed by a song by Jesus Christ, and finally a guru, played by Michael (Maddness) Novotny, came through the audience with a retinue of bare-breasted beauties, sparklers, and Jango chanting "A LO AU WHOOEE."

Foolies, Jango Edwards and the Friends Roadshow

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The Los Angeles Mask Research Theatre gave a brilliant performance. Three actors portrayed nine different characters, all residents of a downtown hotel who meet in its lobby: a wispy girl, a drunk, a cripple, a church-going spinster, a paranoid Englishwoman, a middle-aged self-styled swinger, a prostitute, and a dope dealing dude who reveal each other at a slow, even, and stately pace. Also from the U.S.A. the Salt Lake Mime Troupe had a great egg juggling sequence that held the audience breathless. Tumbleweed, a dance group from San Francisco with musical backup, performed an air ballet on heavy weight ropes. Steve Hansen, a puppeteer, added an energy all his own to the festival. Very popular on and off-stage, Hansen and his puppets were everywhere. Everywhere too was River, a lonely clown from New York, just performing and doing his thing. As in the past Argentina sent some of the best performers: Hector Malamud's Le Grand Revue, Carlos Traffic's one-man show, the absurd Powder Theatre, and Graziella Martinez's White Dreams,a dance company which created visual fantasies under deep blue and red lighting. 89

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From England came Abrakadabra, who work into their act dozens of glorious umbrellas. London's Action Theatre performed War Memories, erecting in Vondel Park an inflatable ritual space called Silver City. Silver City had two large central chambers and stood in the park for three or four days. As you entered one chamber, a few chants were sung and your feet were washed and sprinkled with silver dust by a lovely young woman who dried your feet with her hair. In the second chamber strange sounds filled the air. The space, with its opaque walls and shimmering texture, created a sensual experience for all who passed through Silver City. The Footsbarn Theatre brought with them the legend of the Dancing Bear, an allegorical tale of people versus the power of darkness, complete with a troupe of traveling players who performed with wonderfully controlled voices, perfect timing, clever improvisation and a deft sense of comedy. Theatre Slapstique created a memorable character in Frank Shovel. The British mimes Nola Rae, Annie Stainer, and Justin Case were among the most popular at the festival. From the Netherlands came the BAM Sisters, a hilarious (man and woman) duo, playing two sisters--one strong and domineering, the other weak and sympathetic. Dogtroep was a totally environmental theatre which preferred to work unannounced, just appearing in a setting as if part of it. Onafhankelijk Toneel performed Waiting for Godot in a highly visual presentation: one man was constantly drawing tables, chairs, hill scenes, and other scenes on a large paste-up board throughout the play. The Figurentheater Triangle explored puppetry and marionettes, creating a dream-like doll show. A yearly ritual at the Festival is the Fools Parade. Scheduled for the first Saturday, rain postponed it until the final weekend of the celebration. It started at the Nieumarket around noon, cavorting across town to Vondel Park. Beginning with about four hundred people, it gradually increased to more than two thousand as enthusiasts along the route joined in. Festival of Fools's posters were handed out and held high as the procession marched on, stopping traffic at every intersection. Jango Edwards and "Maddness" Novotny of the Friends Roadshow led the crowd on roller skates causing panic all along the route. The parade ended in the park where impromptu performances capped three weeks of organized madness and chaos.

Photographs by Ron Blanchette


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