I think the first time I ever appeared in public in costume was in Chelmsford carnival, way back when I was a sixth former at the local grammar school. I was sporting a rather fine papier mache pig’s head which we had made in our art class and I won first prize in the comic character category. Could this have been the spark that led me to spend my whole adult life as a street theatre performer? Forty five years of wearing silly things on my head wasn’t exactly what the school careers officer had suggested for me!
Anyway, fifty years later, last weekend in fact, the Natural Theatre’s famous Coneheads invaded Chelmsford’s normally somewhat featureless High Street as part of the tenth anniversary of the newly-dubbed city’s street theatre festival. The Coneheads, having regularly visited this highly successful event over the years in teams of four or five staged a mass invasion. During the course of a few days, over thirty participants learned the Coneheads’ funny walk and sense of naïve curiosity for all things on Earth. When teamed up with the Naturals, the group numbered nearly fifty pointy-headed aliens.
Our props boffins had spent a month laboriously casting the latex masks and others had scoured charity shops to source the rather dull macs that these creatures wear.
There were students, housewives, business men and even city councillors participating in the project. One guy said his boss had forced him to join and he had seriously thought of resigning on the morning of the first rehearsal. After three days he was saying it was one of the best experiences of his life.
The Coneheads went out in seven groups, each led by a Natural regular. About two hundred people followed each team, so when all of them came together there was a massive crowd. It looked amazing and when the little spacemen all moved in unison, set off by secret signals learnt in the rehearsals, the audience was in stitches, especially when, as a finale, they all struck the Lightning Bolt pose. Fabulous!
‘What the hell is going on in Chelmsford?’ a young man was heard to bellow into his mobile phone. I blame that pig!