The Natural Theatre teams have been on duty in London during the Olympics and Paralympics at various pinch points including mainline stations and report that extreme good humour has been the order of the day. Despite vast crowds they came across no grumpiness whatsoever, even when dealing with commuters in a hurry having their early morning routine disrupted by the inevitable queues of games-goers.
Working in the world of street theatre as we do, one does sometime encounter opposition. After all, we are often the uninvited guest and it doesn’t do to imagine everyone welcomes our infiltrations into the real world. However, someone with a sense of humour blockage can make things even funnier in the eyes of the audience without any encouragement from the actors. Witness the lady on the South Bank who took exception to our National No Smiling Day protestors. The world is bad enough as it is, she said angrily, why should we not smile? She got so hot under the collar, a man pushing a buggy collapsed at the knees in paroxysms of laughter and tipped his toddler out into a puddle.
In Bath a woman threatened to call the NSPCC when our radio controlled cycling panda was being tried out for the first time on a very hot day. Surely you mean the RSPCA we joked? “Just how old is the child in that costume?” she demanded.
Our battery operated tortoises got a similar response from do-gooders at Broadgate Arena. Were we licensed to use performing animals they asked, bursting into our dressing room? Just how they thought we could train synchronised dancing tortoises I don’t know. I told them we had a Humane Society certificate and they went off happy.
Perhaps the best one was when we were invited to perform at a convention for followers of Patch Adams, the doctor who helps cure the sick through laughter. In the lunch break I went to the canteen dressed as a school matron. I suggested in a matronly way to some women who had big platefuls of chips that they really ought to eat more greens. One turned and snapped “We came from Austria to attend the Laughter is the Best Medicine Conference, not to be told what to eat by you!”