Monday, October 22, 2007

No Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Last year I wrote a blog entry about the piss-poor performers in Akabane town square and, actually, seeing as Lou is over there at the moment, I've half-a-mind to ask her to just swing by to see if that "modern dance" prat is still there, whirling his arms around like a windmill on crack.

Anyway in the meantime, in lieu of the demented Japanese street "performer", I have the ones in Sydney to keep me entertained. Unintentionally entertained, obviously. Every day I take the pedestrian tunnel leading under Central Station to my office, and every day down that tunnel I run the gauntlet, darting between slow-moving pedestrians and busted-up buskers.

Most are bog-standard. Two or three are good. Two or three are so bad, they're good. So then, the ones who immediately spring to mind:

1. The Fortune Teller:

Ageing, bearded, floral-skirted Orc, clearly pushing triple figures. She sits on a small foldaway seat at the side of a dinky table scattered with all kinds of dog-eared paraphernalia. I have only ever seen her have one customer: a large Afro-Caribbean woman in an equally bright frock who, in fairness, looked as batty as she did. Perhaps they were friends. "Alright, Glenys...can you tell me my fortune?", "Course, Rita, but I doubt it will have changed since I saw you this morning...."

Most of the time she sits perched on her little seat reading at the newspaper, gurning elastically at passers by like something out of Bo' Selecta. If she really could see the future, she should perhaps find out what days she's likely to receive any customers and then only turn up on those days. See? She's not thinking ahead.

2. The Chinese Puppeteer

Ageing, Oriental prune with a permanent rictus grin, clearly pushing triple figures. The actual puppet itself is a rather splendid Oriental doll complete with embroidered Kimono-esque dressing gown, porcelain face and also is meant to be playing some kind of flute-like instrument. Similarly, attached are multiple strings from every conceivable body part, tied up to two crucifixes above the puppet's "stage". In theory then, you have so much control over it, you could make it alternate between the Moonwalk and the Macerena, in between getting it to pick out the raisins from a bag of Revells.

Why then does the old gimmer only make it turn left and then turn right in time with the music, which incidentally is some generic Chinese pan-pipe music crackling through a ghetto blaster at the side. Christ, you could make that thing do anything: solve a Su-do-ku, rewire a plug, write a letter to the Radio Times. But no, just left and right for me. And all the while, the man as this permanent look of amazement, as if to say "Look! He's dancing in time to the music. Watch this.... Left!.... Amazing. Now watch this..... Right!...... Can you believe it?"

It's still better than Thunderbirds though.

3: The Fake Rolf Harris

Ageing, Aussie one-man band, clearly pushing quadruple figures. The best one of the lot can be found right up the top end of the tunnel - yet for him, alas, I don't think there's any light at the end of it. He's a grizzled Aussie Cowboy-type figure armed with a guitar and a didgeridoo which he attempts to play simultaneously and fails. Usually (and I will have to get a bit technical here) he tunes his guitar to an "open chord" position which means he doesn't have to use his left hand to fret any notes, rather he can just strum/flail away and get one decent chord from the guitar.

His other hand which under normal circumstances would be on the fretboard is used for holding some Aboriginal woodblocks. Then on top of that he has a didgeridoo resting on his chin but, as his other two hands are busy, he faces the wall of the tunnel (with his back to the audience) to props up one end of the didgeridoo against the tiles.

Trying to describe the combined effect is quite difficult, but if you imagine a man dressed like he fell into the props cupboard on the set of Blazing Saddles, facing a wall with his back to you, farting through a didgeridoo, thwacking out one single monotonous chord and rapping some woodblocks on the tiles, and hopefully you'll come to the conclusion that, really, you should carry on walking.

No comments: