Reported by Carolyn Bick
LONDON — Children and adults yelled with excitement as they raced towards a bouncy castle replica of Stonehenge. Nearby, local vendors sold foods common to the area’s ethnic population. Here in the London borough of Lambeth that means Caribbean food: fried plantains, goat curry, moist sugar cane and fresh coconut.
A few yards away children demonstrated Gongfu to a cluster of proud relatives. Later, a woman sang opera, and a man led children and a few confident adults in heart-pumping bodyweight exercises.
Throughout the day, there were multiple tents hosting a variety of activities. All of it a part of one of the many Showtime festivals taking place around London in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Each London borough will host a festival, featuring free outdoor arts events and performances.
Lindy, a graphic designer who also works in child care, brought three young children to the festival. She said she thinks the festivals are a nice, alternative way for Londoners to celebrate the Olympics while avoiding the crush and bustle of Olympic Park crowds.
Lindy said her favorite spectacle came from Avanti Display, a local street theater group who created a human fountain called “Spurting Man.”
“He had loads of little, sort of, spouts coming out of his outfit,” Lindy said. “He turned into a human fountain and then proceeded to go around spraying everyone in the crowd.”
The three boys she was watching — Jackson, Daniel and Connor — said they loved “Spurting Man” but also the bouncy castle replica of Stonehenge, a work created by Jeremy Deller titled “Sacrilege.”
“I think all of our favorite bit about the day was that big, like exhibition,” Jackson said looking over his shoulder at the bouncy structure. “‘Cause it’s really bouncy, and the stones are all blown up.”
There are also more intellectual forms of fun. Donald Elliott is an older actor with the intergenerational 3rdthought Theatre Company. At this Showtime festival, Elliott and his group are playing “Invisible People.”
“Sometimes people say that elderly people feel invisible to the general public,” Elliott said.
Elliott said “Invisible People” offer listeners a poem, a story, a piece of advice, a joke, a scene from a famous play or a magic trick. Dressed in all white, each actor has a collection of material in one of these categories and engage festival-goers in one-on-one interactions.
“I could recite a poem to you, if you weren’t careful,” Elliott said before launching into a recitation of Walter Savage Landor’s “Heartsease.”
And then there is Gandini Juggling.
“They’re not just your normal jugglers on the street throwing balls,” said Peter O’Connor of Ireland. “They’re way out there. You wouldn’t believe what you’re seeing. Good visual art. And I wouldn’t be one for visual art.”
Gandini Juggling has existed for 20 years. The act they put on today, called “Smashed,” is a tribute to German choreographer Philippina Bausch. “Smashed” involves nine performers juggling 100 apples to old-fashioned music. But the act is more than just juggling.
“The show is a series of images, tableaux, all to do with juggling apples of various sorts,” said Sean Gandini, one of the founding members of Gandini Juggling. “It starts very organized, and, let’s say, it finishes quite disorganized.”
Gandini is true to his word: “Smashed” refers to more than just the apples at the end of the performance.
Showtime festivals will run throughout London through the end of the Paralympic Games in September.