Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Big Chill

After the Big Chill it was just one long pack for the Beautiful Days! So this is a slightly less fresh impression than it might have been. I/we hadn't been to/performed at the Big Chill before, and I must say I was pleasantly impressed.
   But not before we'd turned up on the Tuesday and been shown whereabouts to pitch the tipi...up a hill that might be thought a trifle steep for drunken revellers especially in the dark, then into a wooded track, very pretty but full of very large anthills to negotiate, and finally we came to spaces where glades had been hacked out of bracken on the one side (the poor folks pitching the yurt said there were ticks when they'd done the festival before! as the site is a Deer Park) and a bramble hedge on the other...ours was the bramble bush. We were speechless and at first just looked at each other in disbelief. Deor was the first to come to his senses, and he said he'd give it our best shot. When I quizzed him as we carried the 14ft poles up hill and down dale through the anthills, he said he thought we should at least try and see it was possible...hours later, and to the left of the place initially indicated, and on the slope without the usual circular clearance space, to my amazement we had pitched it! The site had been changed twice already by whoever decided these things (not the curator who had commissioned us!).
   We were commissioned to perform ghostly and supernatural tales in the Haunted Tipi, illuminated with our theatre and outdoor lights on the Art Trail, with shows on the hour at 10pm, 11pm, 12am and 1am. Which meant that we (being once the public were let on site camped/parked a mile and a half away) were there pretty much from 8.30 or 8.45pm until 2am, as of course there was set up/opening up time, changing into costume, and afterward shut up time/pack up time. Being on as the one interactive attraction on the Art Trail was both rewarding - we got hordes of audience, almost every show was completely packed, and we were 'one of the lit up things happening in the middle of the night' that people (or at least I do) go to festivals to catch; And also exhausting - as the flip side was screwing up one's sleep pattern, trying to get up later (which took getting used to) and then rocking round again once the festival was over. It also meant that pretty much everything that was happening that looked good, from the Electric Hotel to the Chemical Brothers was on the same time as we were, so we didn't get to see much in the way of acts. And finally, we found out why areas like Shangri La in Glastonbury are full of bouncers! It was a big compliment that folks wanted to come in and just soak up the visuals between shows, as they really liked the way the tipi was illuminated and decorated. It was also nice that we had big audiences, that they often didn't want to leave, and that they applauded often riotously and were so put out when they had missed a show or were willing to come back (being quite a trek in the dark, despite the path being lit up - there were still dark patches, and still nettles, brambles and very lumpy anthills to negotiate!). What was also nice was how charmed they were when we allowed them to sit in the venue (not while we were changing!) when swapping props, or performed ancient Anglo-Saxon riddles for them when they came at the wrong times, (Deor was especially heroic, hating to leave anyone disappointed unless they were really roaring drunk/with no manners at all), and also to try on the masks supervised - which many people also loved to do.
   What wasn't so positive was when they bayed like hounds and packed the place out so that one had to start half and hour early! - or put on in total 4 extra shows! Or when they crowded both venue and tarpaulins outside, blocked entrances, wanted to try on masks and bodymasks when they had been left unattended for a few moments, liked stuff so much that they made off with two small masks, a giant blue hand, a big straw hat and a balaclava (how anyone could even see that in the dark, I can't imagine!). And finally, how - despite our tales and especially The Monster Carnival at 1am being scary, on Thursday night it was we who found the crowd a bit scary! People were of course, drunk, off their faces, up for fun, and shall we say some were determined to get every penny of their money's worth, and in their relentless pursuit of entertainment, did not quite manage to maintain the manners one might expect in the normal course of things.
   One nice thing however at having done Glastonbury a few times etc., was that while we would have loved some security folks up there or stewards with more experience than the ones we had, on the other hand, we were able to deal with the crowds well enough that we made the artist opposite us more comfortable. She had a beautiful installation in the yurt over the way, which involved expensive equipment, and had trouble getting people to go in one at a time/in sensible numbers for sensible time slots, and encountered careless and reckless people whom she soon started to deflect and close her venue to. We agreed that it was bedlam from time to time up there, and about the more 'out of it' members of the festival goers. She had said a few well chosen words to someone who thought it funny to 'mooney' at her and others on the Trail, and had sent him away with a flea in his ear! But very nicely, she said it was good to have some more experienced folks on hand across the way (meaning ourselves) as it made her feel more secure! So glad to be of use.