Street Theatre probably one of the oldest forms of theatre since it predates the development of theatres and specific performance spaces. It is a form of theatre which is presented normally in an outdoor space in a public area. The performance is often called a found performance because both the performer and the audience ‘find’ or happen upon the space where the performance takes place. Often street theatre performers are called ‘buskers’ and the audience for a ‘busker’ often donates money or gifts of food or drink to the performer. These types of street theatre are often performed on the street, malls, in shopping centres, car parks or on street intersections or corners. Street theatre also includes moving performances that happen through the street during festivals or during parades or protests.
Street theatre can involve juggling, stilt walking, magic, physical theatre, mime, mask work, circus skills, clowning, work with fire, slapstick comedy, busking, riding bicycles or unicycles, using simple costumes and props. It normally involves little or no set and no amplification of sound.
Some forms of early Street Theatre include Ancient Roman Comedy, Medieval Passion Plays, the Commedia dell arte, the Carnivale or the Nukkad Natak (Indian Street Theatre).
During the 20th Century, political and community-based street performance companies like Welfare State International, PETA (in The Philippines), the Sarwanam Theatre Group (in Nepal) and the Bread and Puppet Theatre Company (founded in 1963 in New York) expanded the nature and focus of Street Theatre.
Conceptual Art and the Happenings of the 1960’s also had their influence on street performance groups such as Lumiere and Son, John Bull Puncture Repair Kit, Exploded Eye, the Natural Theatre Company and the Australian group The Men Who Knew Too Much. These groups included elements of character-based work, DaDa, Japanese Kyogen and Circus skills.
One form of Street Theatre which developed in the 21st Century is the Flash Mob. A Flash Mob is where a group of people suddenly assemble in a street or public place and perform a synchronized or unusual or seemingly pointless act in a short time. Often these events are organized via social media. With its origins in conceptual art and the political theatre of Augusto Boal, the first official Flash Mob was probably one staged in 2003 by Bill Wasik in Manhattan at Macy’s Department Store.
Nowadays, Street Theatre can be seen in many forms throughout most cities in the world. Social Media has also seen the proliferation of the sharing of Street Theatre forms and techniques.
Campbell, P.J. (1981). Passing the Hat: Street Performers in America. New York: Delacorte Press.
Coult, T., & Kershaw, B. (1983). Engineers of the imagination: the Welfare State handbook. London: Methuen Drama.
Eckersley, M. (2015). A Matter of Style – Theatre Styles from Across the World. West Footscray: Tasman Press.
Gazzo, A., Hustle, D. & Wells, J.E. (2006). The Art of Krowd Keeping. New York: Penguin Magic Press.
Gaber, F. (2009). 40 Years of Street Arts. Paris: Ici et là Press.
Street Theatre Videos
Penn and Teller -Cups and Balls + Fish and coins
Mind Tricks – Derren Brown
Balloon skewer trick
5 easy tricks
Making Balloon Flowershttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk3F2k8Y4Pw
Live Sand Pictures
Live Speed Painting