ALL IN A DAY’S WALK

Wanneroo Times - - What’s On - Tanya MacNaughton

EV­ERY­ONE crosses their fin­gers for good weather on cer­tain oc­ca­sions but for safety rea­sons it is even more vi­tal when you are walk­ing on stilts as a gi­gan­tic rov­ing bird.

Such is the life of per­former Ee­fje de Groot, who con­trols one of Dutch street the­atre com­pany Close Act’s BirdMen, which will be roam­ing the streets of Fre­man­tle dur­ing the Easter long week­end for the 20th Fre­man­tle In­ter­na­tional Street Arts Fes­ti­val.

With a back­ground in dance, de Groot has worked for Close Act for 14 years on var­i­ous per­for­mances de­signed for ur­ban pub­lic ar­eas. She con­trolled a di­nosaur in Sau­rus be­fore trans­fer­ring to these pre­his­toric bird-like crea­tures.

“We were per­form­ing once dur­ing a big storm and the wind blew me over,” de Groot said.

Made from a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing fi­bre­glass, metal and fab­ric, the bird cos­tumes are moved by the per­former’s body, bring­ing the bird to life as if it was a real an­i­mal.

“In gen­eral, peo­ple are amazed and there are a lot of open-mouthed ex­pres­sions,” de Groot said.

“Some­times peo­ple get a lit­tle scared be­cause it’s a nonex­is­tent crea­ture that’s ex­ist­ing, so they are star­tled, but most of the time they are in awe. They come close and we move through the crowd and in­ter­act with peo­ple.”

De Groot said as much as the ex­pe­ri­ence was sur­pris­ing for peo­ple, it was also un­pre­dictable for the per­form­ers too, who had to keep a con­stant eye on the crowd and ground.

“You need to look out for bot­tles or cans so you don’t trip over,” she said.

“And peo­ple are un­pre­dictable be­cause chil­dren run around or peo­ple can get drunk and it can get a bit risky for us. We’re very ex­pe­ri­enced and trained stilt walk­ers and you have to learn how to take care of your­self in those kinds of situations.”

BirdMen will per­form as part of an ex­ten­sive pro­gram that com­bines buskers, street the­atre, bands, lo­cal pop-up bars and eater­ies from March 30 to April 2. Fes­ti­val­go­ers can see them each af­ter­noon and on Satur­day and Sun­day evening, where the crea­tures light up af­ter dark.

“It’s an act where you have to use your imag­i­na­tion be­cause it’s not like any­thing you’ve seen be­fore,” de Groot said. “It will def­i­nitely move you.”

Visit www.stree­tarts fes­ti­val.com.au.

BirdMen take to the streets.

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