As a way of celebrating the last nine years, the festival is featuring 70 favourite free shows and some new ones, including award-winning theatre companies, turning the Chelmsford into ‘into a world of absurdity…’ for one day.
It will also feature the biggest gathering and performance of Coneheads ever seen in the UK. The Coneheads act, one of dozens of scenarios performed by the Natural Theatre Company, has become the ‘elongated face’ of the festival due to their popularity and unforgettable stare. Pushing the boundaries of public participation, dozens of brave members of the public, local councillors and sponsors are now being professionally trained as Coneheads to ensure their debut on the streets of Chelmsford is a triumph.
Starts at 10.30am.
Avanti Display: Spurting Man
The Spurting Man was last seen in Chelmsford in 2005, the famous speciality performer, ‘The Spurting Man’, and his downtrodden assistant return to our city for the anniversary festival. Performed to Ravel’s Bolero without a spoken word this show is meticulous to character and detail. The pompous ‘Spurting Man’ shows his tricks whilst his assistant, dominated and undervalued, is given no credit for the role he plays. The assistant despises his master. The master ignores the assistant. The bizarre and unequal relationship lays the basis for a series of comic interactions.
Each trick the ‘Spurting Man’ performs culminates in a display of squirting water until finally, crowned and on top of his pedestal, the grand finale takes place and ‘The Spurting Man’ cascades fountains of water from his body.
Bangditos: The 2CV Massacre
In a loud and smoky blow-up, a tiny, French-made car called ‘2CV’ breaks down. When two French tourists lose their way in the street and, with charming enthusiasm, involve one and all in their precarious distress, none of the amused onlookers can imagine that this daft duo could ever find their way back to Paris, if they in fact ever did after their last visit to Chelmsford in 2009! With grandiose fervour, the situation becomes more complicated, streets more labyrinthine, and passers-by more confused.
Bash Street Theatre: The Strongman
Bash Street Theatre previously presented Cliff-Hanger! and The Station as finales to ESSEXstreetdiversions in 2009 and 2011 respectively. This year they will bring a brand new show entitled ‘The Strongman’. Inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film ‘The Circus’, the show tells a story of intrigue and jealousy, with a big helping of comedy and musical ‘joie de vivre’. Set in the 1920s, the story involves a travelling show that has just lost its headline act. The Strongman has died, and if his assistant doesn’t find a replacement she will be forced to quit the circus. To make matters worse, the Boss is stealing her share of the profits…
Bedlam Oz: Big Mob & Familie
The tenth anniversary sees Bedlam Oz return to Chelmsford for the third time to present two shows of slinkies on the move! Big Mob is a majestic parade with bursts of comic energy amongst the crowd. Five mini shows allow the audience to enjoy a complete ‘piece’ or follow the slinkie mob and continue with the adventure. Familie is a static show, tightly choreographed to an industrial ambient soundtrack and has pleased crowds all around the world.
Johnny Buffalo (also known as Zabani Kopek) is a self-styled international man of mystery – in fact he may not even know what his real name is with so many personas to contend with. Nurturing talent and absurd ideas from his nearby Buffalo Tank HQ, Johnny thinks of a pun, then builds a world around it. A recent creation is the Tankton Village – a surreal world of sideshows, tomfoolery and English eccentricity – including the understated but brilliant Toast Office and also the Art Cannon with Colonel Mosschops aided and abetted by his faithful chum, Admiral Sidewicket.
Bureau of Silly Ideas: Surprising Interventions
BoSi’s surprising interventions are an ever increasing herd of radio controlled street furniture and oddballs. Look out for favourite’s from the past nine year’s; Sid & Nancy the Wheelie Bins chasing, spraying and taunting passers by, John the Road Cone, moving fast, squirting water and happily carrying small children! And Gladys & Annabel the eccentric, large plant pots that love to chat, dance, squirt water and shake their foliage to the rhythm of life!
Close Act : XL Insects
For many years they lived as larvae underground where they grew undisturbed. Now matured, they emerge, huge and threatening! They swarm through the streets towering above the crowds, their bulbous insect eyes darting in all directions. With piercing sounds and writhing legs they head straight towards you. Hold your breath, don’t move, don’t even blink. Simply be still, watch and maybe ask yourself how these incredible creatures came into being…
Compagnie Albedo: Les Tonys
Les Tonys were one of the highlight shows of 2010 and have been brought back especially for the anniversary. These two bodyguards, Tony and Tony are on a mission to protect the city and its inhabitants. They have peculiar heads and are a little stupid, but above all very well-intentioned. If you want to go incognito they will escort you, if you want to go one way, they will direct you the other. If you don’t see any danger, then they will (and if necessary they will invent it).
Creature Feature: Gorillas
These life-like mountain gorillas first made an appearance at ESSEXstreetdiversions in a specially created menagerie in Bell Meadow in 2007. They behave just like the real creatures, except that nobody is in danger, even from the powerful silverback male. They portray the very gentle and intelligent nature of the apes. They really enjoy a day out and look upon passers by as fair game for their harmless mischief making. Be assured, if anybody has fleas, the gorillas will find them.
An Essex-bred street performer and engineer of the absurd. At his Mechanical Menagerie large-scale interactive, kinetic or mobile structures are created for street theatre. Touring both in the UK and abroad with fire-breathing trees, robotic skeletons pulling Gypsy caravans and giant mechanical dragons, he likes to think of a special story and then bring it to reality. Dan’s ElementTree sculpture originally commissioned by Essex and Suffolk Water and Chelmsford City Council will be appearing at the festival. He will also be masquerading as Admiral Sidewicket with firing things from big cannon… You can’t miss him.
Dot Comedy: Misinformation Tent and Peter & Jane Family
Dot Comedy have appeared at the festival in numerous guises and return for the anniversary celebration with two of our favourite shows.
The Misinformation Tent will supply (wrong) answers to all life’s questions and comes complete with misleading maps, impossible diagrams and ridiculous public service announcements. Staffed by the most helpful but ill-informed ‘local volunteers’ available!
Also look out for Peter and Jane Family. Full of nostalgic charm, the family look as if they’ve stepped from between the pages of a Ladybird book, and embrace life’s simple pleasures in a larger than life format. Peter and Jane tower over their diminutive parents, and Pat the Dog is frozen in a state of perpetual excitement at the sight of his red ball!
Dynamogène: Monsieur Culbuto
Always a favourite, Dynamogène was created in 1995, there shows are all based upon life-size toys where poetry of the machinery is sustained by the absurd, but deeply human acting of the characters. Mister Culbuto is a living toy waiting desperately for someone to play with him. He is pulled along the road and put down here and there, for a few minutes, or more if friends come by, as if by magic, he moves. Now it is your turn, he is a sad Weeble toy (for those who remember those!) just waiting for you to play with him…
Insect Circus Society: Museum
Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, Stroll up, Stroll up for the return of the magnificent Insect Circus Museum! Behold the Liberty Beetles and the cheeky ladybirds. Be thrilled by the knife thrower and the Painted Lady. Marvel at the worm charmer and laugh at the dancing Snails. Housed in a vintage, mahogany lined, Bedford TK beetlebox lorry, this unique museum displays a stunning array of costumes, props, puppets and toys from the extraordinary collection of the Insect Circus Society. Featuring dancing snails, trained butterflies, wasp tamers and balancing bugs, these stunning automata are a rare treat for all ages.
A white grand piano mastered by a mime from the eighteenth century will ‘sail’ along with the music on motorised wheels, while an ethereal music box ballerina dances and sways sweetly to the tune. This unique itinerant performance left a romantic memory in each and every heart when it last moved down Chelmsford High Street in 2005 and will touch even more people when it returns.
Joanna Peacock: Candy Colours
It could be said that Joanna Peacock is the original Essex girl, a modern day Boudicca, with over twenty years of experience in incredible costume design and performing in circus and on the street. It’s an impressive personal history that can be traced back to the legendary French Archaos Circus and in more recent times, the Mutoid Waste Company. She has performed across the world, from Japan to Germany, and is often credited with inventing the now popular human angle-grinding act seen at many contemporary burlesque shows. This year at ESSEXstreetdiversions, Joanna can be seen performing with her cheeky cohorts dressed as Candy Coloured stiltwalkers, in amazing costumes designed and made by her.
La Belle Image: Diabladas Corps Soufflant
Diabladas Corps Soufflant has been performed on roads, in squares and in concert halls in dozens of countries across the world but never in this country – so this will be a UK Premiere in Chelmsford in 2012. The festive energy of the music makes for addictive dancing and that’s a special trademark of La Belle Image that has been developed over 15 years. We booked them after enjoying an intense performance at the festival de theatre de rue at Aurillac in France this year. For the tenth anniversary of Chelmsford’s international festival, twelve musicians from La Belle Image will release rhythmic happiness into the new city. Happy Birthday, ESSEXstreetdiversions!
Larkin’ About: Granny Turismo
Larkin About have entertained the people of Chelmsford with an array of shows from Ghosties and Angels, to Tritons. The show that often springs to mind as a festival highlight is Granny Turismo, since it first appeared in Chelmsford two years ago they’ve has been delighting audiences across the world and is one of the most talked-about acts around. The show has universal appeal and is part walkabout, part circle show and wholly engaging. When Doris, Mary and Marge arrive on their souped-up shopping trolleys, everyone takes notice.
Les Compagnie d’Outre-Rue: Les Orbilys
The direct translation of this show’s description appears to be that Les Orbilys overhang the crowd with a slow and sure step, as they constantly question the mood of the world. These curious humanoids scan all and speak through their eyes. Nothing is more beautiful than to be moved by the eye and they have many! If you are there, they already saw you! Make of that what you will. All we know is that they look a bit scary …but were loved by audiences when they last appeared in Chelmsford.
Les Goulus: Cupidons
Les Goulus always provide outrageous walkabout cabaret and entertainment – transforming themselves into one of their many alter-egos – ESSEXstreetdiversions has previously presented Hare Krishnas, Les Explorateurs, Horsemen. Les Goulus make sure that there isn’t a dull moment and this year bring Les Cupidons, three handsome and statuesque Greek gods firing their arrows into the heart of men and women as they go about their daily business. Watch as love between even the strangest of couples blossoms all around as these mischievous cupids continue the work they started in the early days of the festival.
Los Kaos: Polar Bear
Bjorn the Polar Bear returns to Chelmsford in his special inflated ice sculpture environment. The show combines natural history and innovative animatronics, a magical and unforgettable show for people of all ages. Bjorn has blinking eyes, a sniffing nose, an opening mouth and real bear sounds. He is care for by an experienced herder who will give a fascinating nature documentary style talk on polar bears and their environment and answering questions about their habits and habitat.
Natural Theatre Company: Various
Since the birth of ESSEXstreetdiversions in 2003 this company has brought their original and inventive comedy to Chelmsford, most famously the ‘face of the festival’, the Coneheads. At approximately 4.30pm you will witness the biggest delegation of Coneheads ever seen in the UK. The Naturals will also entertain the crowds with a variety of other quirky scenarios throughout the day.
Neighbourhood Watch Stilts International: Caterpillar
`Microcosmos’ is the theme of a number of interventions from our fragile natural environment. An enormous 10 metre long caterpillar will be released into Chelmsford’s urban environment for the third time in the festival’s history to entertain the town’s population. It is very strange to live in the first human era where the entire natural environment is under threat and that fact adds an extra urgency to NWSI’s mission to emphasise the delights of the existence of these wonderful and awesome cohabitants of planet Earth.
Pangottic Crcus Theatre: Thingamabob
Thingamabob is PanGottic’s first appearance at ESSEXstreetdiversions and is inspired by the famous Rube Goldberg Machines; ‘a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation’ (according to Webster’s New World Dictionary). A brand new show for 2012, it brings a highly original devised, ball slinging, self exploding contraption to the public where they, the audience, become part of the machine and play an important role to ensure the complete satisfaction of watching one of these wonderful chain reaction machines work.
Expect a mixture of circus, invention and comedy to bring a mesmerising piece of gadgetry to life. Commissioned by Chelmsford City Council, Greenwich & Docklands Festival, Hat Fair, SeaChange Arts and Le Forneau.
Plunge Boom: Trolls Kitchen
Plunge Boom have appeared at the festival on a number of occasions with baby vegetables or microscopic animals, and this year they will present the premiere of Trolls Kitchen: A troll has been sighted in the local area, so the chefs have been summoned, for a hungry troll is trouble, especially if you have pets! In a bid to pacify him, the chefs are cooking a meal fit for a troll and need your help. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves, turn up your nostrils & do your bit for nature.
Strangelings: Gaiety Engine
This is Gaiety Engine’s ESSEXstreetdiversions premiere following it’s success at a Victorian Christmas event in Chelmsford a few years ago – although the Strangelings have regularly appeared at the festival with all manner of shows. Wolf-boy, a squeamish fakir, a feline escapologist and a mermaid named Terence, are just a few of the Gaiety Engine’s exhibits. Allow the dapper and demented Isaiah Crank and his mildewed assistant Tolley-boy to guide you through the last remaining Victorian freak show.
Stuff n Things: The Thinker & The Lady Thinker
Vernon Ponder caused a stir at last year’s event and returns bringing with him a lady friend (although they don’t wander together). Cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty, they gamely attempt to make sense of the modern world. What’s it all about? Why is cheese cheesy? How many pints are there in Lake Windermere? Did I leave the iron on? But they are both gifted, an unnatural ability so secret that even they don’t realise it – for they are telepathic transmitters, a scientific marvel, their every thought, mundane, matter of fact, or miraculous, is heard by all around them.
Swizzleshaker: Cocktails for Two
A charming and stylishly crafted variety show not seen in Chelmsford for seven years, it will take you back to a 1940s Hollywood cocktail bar. Two enigmatic characters create a theatrical story set to an atmospheric sound track, action-packed with highly-skilled routines, comedy, magic and dance. Swizzleshaker successfully blend circus, street theatre and dance.
Teatro Pavana: Giraffes
These beautiful creatures were very popular when they appeared in 2008. Branches creaked; leaves rustled… suddenly huge giraffes appeared right on Chelmsford High Street as the audience speculated if they were real. Statuesque and tranquil creatures, they stride down the street, bending their elegant necks from time-to-time in order to nibble on a leaf, or to greet a spectator. Giraffes are friendly and peaceful, but watch out, remember they are wild animals…