Festivals and Fireworks en Française
The tiny city of Aurillac has had its Street Theatre Festival for 29 years. Its population of around 30,000 is overrun for a week each year by thousands of street artists and the tens of thousands of people who watch them perform. The hotels are full, the roads lined with campervans and tents pitched on every square of grass, even in parking spaces on the street. Mostly the artists and audiences are French having their last fling of summer. There are lots of harem panted, dreadlocked ferals accompanied by their dogs and much public drinking, performances dotted along the closed off streets, in every square, garden and car-park. The French have a great tradition of street theatre. Many French street companies have visited Australia, especially in the 80s and 90s when street theatre was more fashionable here than it is now. Perhaps it’s time to revisit street theatre in Australia?
Of great interest was fireworks artist Christophe Berthonneau whose company, Groupe F, has been responsible for some of the world’s most amazing pyrotechnics and helped to launch MONA. Have a look at their Youtube clips. Here’s a show they do regularly in the gardens of Versailles:
The festive ambience in Aurillac is fantastic. The dogs, the drinking, the crowds, people sleeping on the streets; none of it seems to be a problem, because there are shows, food, lots of families, and performances happening everywhere. It makes one realise just how over-regulated we are in Australia. Here, it seems, we have to undertake a risk assessment for someone to play the piano – in case they break their fingers, or someone trips on the piano leg! But in France the controlled anarchy contributes to an exciting freedom which encourages creativity and experiment. It is hard to imagine any Australian councils embracing the mayhem and excitement that is Aurillac. It might give some of our councillors’ heart attacks to imagine that rules could be relaxed or ignored, sometimes, in order to make our cities and towns more interesting.