In 2017 I performed at the extremely popular North End Road Market in West London and found that it’s much more than just a market. The whole road is closed to traffic for the day whilst about 18,000 people enjoy over 150 stalls, live music and all kinds of entertainment, including street theatre. For those of you who have never been, it’s worth visiting next time it’s on. The whole event felt like a mini festival. I really enjoyed it!
It’s such a joy to perform at these events. The huge crowd of people really gave me the chance to draw both adults and children into my enchanted and dreamlike world where the crystal balls seem to have a life of their own. I love to watch the awe on the faces of the fixated and mesmerised people as I perform, and it’s always wonderful to hear people cry out with exclamations of “ Beautiful!”, Amazing!” and “Astonishing!”.
Then, about halfway through the event, a man appeared and wanted to talk about the art form of juggling with me. I tried to stay in character but nevertheless the mystery and intrigue had been shattered, disappointing a group of spellbound children I was entertaining at the time. So I suppose in this case someone really did just want to see the juggler. But of the thousands of people who enjoyed my act for what it was, a piece of mesmerising and engaging street entertainment, only one person sought me out for my juggling skills.
Of course, this is fine. After all, having flawless techniques is necessary for an impeccable performance. But to engage with the public, to really draw them into your act and make them feel as though they’ve entered a magical world, requires the ability to engage and entertain through the art form, Otherwise, it’s just showing off. The point is that most people don’t just want to see skill, they want to be entertained, and that is what I always strive to do.
When I got home I sat down and thought about the day. It occurred to me that my experience at the North End Road Market had reaffirmed some of my key principles when it comes to performing. Although flawless technique is necessary to allow the performer to engage properly without the act becoming just a trick based show, most people don’t just want to see skill, they want to be entertained. This, I believe, is the way a modern performance like mine has to be in order to be successful: both experiential and interactive. I admire the work of companies such as Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema who have a similar ethos to me. They seamlessly blur the boundaries between the performer and audience, creating a truly immersive and memorable experience. This is what I hope I achieved at the North End Road Market.