Comedy Bus

Half of Natural Theatre is at Melbourne Comedy Festival this week. The others are at the Bath Comedy Festival, on the White Wine Arts Trail. The Naturals are famous for street theatre, but unusually these events are ticketed and both are completely sold out. In Australia the team is presenting their 1950’s cinema spoof. Here, we are performing on and around a classic red London bus.

The company used to specialise in mystery coach tours. There’s a certain risk involved in having to be at a certain spot at a certain time dressed as a certain mad character. There’s always the possibility that the bus carrying the punters takes a short cut and one is abandoned in the middle of nowhere in an inappropriate costume. This happened in Queensland when we delivered a group of scarecrows to the appointed spot. Hours later they were still there, their arms taped firmly to broomsticks and straw sticking out of their collars. Eventually they hitched a lift on a commuter bus, but not before some delightful kiddies started lobbing things at them. Obviously couldn’t pay their fares because they couldn’t reach their pockets. They arrived back at HQ hot, itchy and very angry.

One mystery tour passed through Wells where we had a lady bishop outside the cathedral poring through a book of gothic wallpaper samples and discussing colour schemes for the intended makeover with passers-by. The robes and mitre we hired were so convincing that tourists were queuing up to take photos. It wasn’t long before the cathedral authorities took umbrage and threatened to call the police. The poor actress had to hide until the mystery tour coach arrived, but somehow a bishop lurking behind a tree looked worse than one posing for holiday snaps!

Our appearances on these occasions are invariably appropriate to the geographical location. When a tour crossed Dartmoor, what else but to dress as an escaped chain gang pursued by an overweight warden? A passing motorist called the cops who were about to get the search helicopter out. We left it to a very patient officer to explain that it’s only in cartoon films that convicts wear suits stencilled with arrows.

I’m sorry if you couldn’t get tickets for the comedy bus. Rest assured, there’ll be another one along soon.

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