I first went the the Perigueux International Mime Festival as a young teenager...it could have been as early as 1985. It was cool and anarchic (and so was I, smoking red Marlborough with my big sister, when my parent's backs were turned). We went many times: I fell in love with the Place Saint Louis, the bizarre mix of street theatre and the beautiful French boys. As a parent myself now, I followed the family tradition of buying a campervan and dragging my own children around the festival every year - 30 pieces of theatre each year (kicking and screaming) over 5 years - enjoying some of the most influential theatre I've ever seen.
The ballerinas in fat suits with music speakers buried deep within their folds; "dancing," leaning, spreading themselves over (serious French) lunch time diners and through the cobbled streets of this beautiful Medieval town.
'Toga the clown' publicly embarrassing anyone who dared walk his path - nobody was spared, and the young Catholic nuns were a terrifying target, as 500 onlookers knew that they'd be ripped to shreds - they were, but they laughed too. He's funnier than funny.
My favourite was a troop of (what can best be described as) French anarchist performers. On one evening they met at the prestigious Town Hall claiming from the top window to hundreds of eager festival goers, that they were the new police with new law enforcement rights. They proceeded to throw dozens of large cardboard boxes down onto the crowd, who for their own survival, batted the boxes back up into the air, so causing chaos and NOISE; jumping boxes are more noisy than you could ever imagine. "I'm scared" said my 7 year old Rosa, so Daddy put her on his shoulders, how bloody daft was that, she's now in the firing line, but batting boxes seemed to bring her round to the wild French police. The new "Regime" then rode out of the Town Hall with orange painted faces, on bicycles. They rode along ledges, falling into fountains, tearing off their clothes, getting back onto their bikes to stop all the traffic trying to drive around Perigueux's main roundabout. They stopped the traffic and pulled (innocent, oblivious drivers on their way home from work) out of their cars; some they snogged passionately, one car they picked up (it only took four of them, one on each corner) and planted it on top of a once lovely roundabout floral display. It felt like me and my family were the only people that got it. We howled with laughter, gasping in anticipation of what mad game came next.
A low point was when my little boy, Joseph (not so blooming little any more), sat and dunked his pathetic net at fish on the river side. A serious, earnest "piece of theatre" happened alongside him with 200 onlookers, at essentially what was a piece of synchronised swimming with a poor PA system to accompany their "water drama". Well the main drama (and only true piece of theatre) came when the young Joseph fell into the river whilst casting his net too ambitiously; yet perfectly placed and in view of his (until now bored) attentive crowd. They were embarrassed tears that fell that day, that became more and more cross, blubbering sobs, as his stupid mother fought unsuccessfully to stop uncontrollable giggles as she rescued him back to safety. That was the end of both the fishing and theatre careers for him.
Perigueux - the unpredictable is the expected; the anarchic, the wild, funny, funny, so funny happenings are guaranteed to happen. And this year Vamos is part of it! Not only are we part of it, we are performing The Best Thing on the main stage of Theatre L'Odyssée (where I lost my favourite pink cardigan in 2010 and found it again on a woman washing up next to me on my campsite...yes I did get it back!) This year Vamos will be part of other family's stories and memories of a truly incredible festival. I'm chuffed.