Maui Waui, What, Where, Who and When;
Early September saw me working at Maui Waui music festival, a small but very nice and friendly festival set in the heart of the Suffolk countryside. Unlike most of the festivals that I work at, this one isn’t medieval or a country fair. it’s actually a music festival (hence its name), with all the Paraphernalia you’d expect to see at such an event, but I’m a mercenary jester and will go wherever the money is. So when Cosmo from the foolhardy circus contacted me and asked if I’d perform in his evening cabaret I jumped at the chance. Partly because I need the money, but mainly because it was a chance to work with and catch up with some old friends.
Cosmo is one of those old friends, in fact we’ve known each other for the best part of 30 years. He was the first real clown I ever met, when I was booked, many many moons ago, to help out with a few days of juggling workshops for Norwich university.
That event was organized by a then young student called ken, or Dr Ken as he is now known. He uses juggling, comedy and the such like to run very funny yet highly educational science shows. So if any teachers or home ed folks read this, he is well worth the money and can be found here. He was also booked to do shows over the weekend and, as I stood in the shadows watching his performance, I couldn’t help but feel a touch of pride at the thought that maybe, just maybe, meeting me and learning about my lifestyle was a life changing moment that helped to inspire him to follow in my footsteps.
It was just me at this festival as Stormageddon and Jester Dragonfly were off doing other things. So all I had with me was a small two man tent which I quickly set up behind the foolhardy big top. Then Thursday evening was spent chilling with the rest of the troop as we listened to Wilson, a very funny and talented musician, playing his new computerised squeeze box (similar to an electric yamaha organ, but nowhere near as annoying). Then an early night as tomorrow the public would arrive and chaos would commence.
Another stage was called the “crime scene”. This had a large front painted up like a run down building in a dodgy part of town. You entered through a door that led to a winding alleyway festooned with wanted posters and at the end of the ally you had a choice. You could either turn left and enter the dance tent with its heavy “BOOM BOOM BOOM” of hard rave music, or you could carry straight on and into the chill out tent. Although it’s not my type of music (for starters I play a folk harp) it is the tent that I spent most of my free time in, but more on that latter.
My first show at Maui Waui;
10 30p.m. saw my first show of the weekend. Cosmo gave me a great intro and I walked out onto the stage and into the glare of the lights. Now there’s a big difference between performing in a field and in a big top. The main advantage is that, with a big top, you don’t have to be so loud, as the walls not only keep other sounds out, but also bounce your own voice back. Also there’s no wind to worry about when balancing things like my razor blunt knifes (of doom) on my chin. However, the main disadvantage is the lights. With two sets of sidelights (one set each side of me, hence the name “sidelights”) and a full set of around 8 lights in front of me, it was impossible to see either the audence or, if I’d positioned myself wrong, anything I’m juggling.
I remember back in my early days as a superstar I was booked to perform contact juggling in a theater show. Come my turn to perform all the lights were turned off in the hall and a spotlight was shone onto me. The result was that I couldn’t see a thing and spent more time picking the ball up than I did juggling it. Because of this I always insist on a pre show lighting check, using chalk if need be to mark where best to stand for which part of my show. This I’d done earlier in the day and so the lighting wasn’t a problem. The problem was engaging with an audence that I couldn’t actually see (and looking them in the eyes when you can’t actually see if they have any, isn’t easy)!
Luckily for me there’s numerous tricks of the trade that I’ve learnt over the years to not only engage with an unseen audence, but also to gage their mood and reactions. Then came the part of my linking rings (of doom) routine where I needed a volunteer. normally I’d ask the children for a volunteer, but at this time of night I doubted that there would be any children in the audence. I could of asked the adults who wanted to volunteer, but they rarely do, so instead I just walked into the crowd and picked one at random. Well, I say random. All through my show I’d been listening to the audence and had pinpointed where the most mouthy person was. I wanted to use them partly because the fact that they were heckling me meant that they were someone I could interact with, hopefully in a humorous manner. Partly because they sounded like they would enjoy the limelight, so were unlikely to refuse to join me on stage (there’s few things worse than a volunteer who point blank refuses to volunteer). However, the main reason that I picked on them, I mean picked them, was because they were heckling me, which meant they deserved whatever I decided to throw at them.
“What’s your name” I asked?
“I don’t know” she said, trying to be witty, “what do you want to call me”?
“I know what I want to call you, but this is a family show so let’s just stick with your name”
“Thats funny” I replied “that’s my wife’s name. well, I say wife, we’re not married yet. In fact, we’ve only just met”.
It took a second or two for her to realize that it was her I was talking about and then she must of decided that she’d met her match, as she suddenly stopped being so lippy. Shame really.
It was around midnight by the time I’d finished and got changed. I sat in my tent and thought “I’ll just take 5 minutes rest, then I’ll go enjoy the festival. Then promptly fell asleep, completely missing the first nights fun.
My morning magical malarky;
I awoke around 6 a.m. (I’m always an early riser) feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I walked out into the arena to see what, if anything, was happening. There was a group of around 20 people around a large “off the ground fire box” in which several large logs were smoldering away. I joined them around the fire and, as I listened to them talking total rubbish I soon realized that they were all suffering the after effects of what we shall politely call “self inflicted chemical imbalances” (read into that what you will).
“perfect” I thought “time to have some fun”
I was wearing my long red and yellow medieval coat, the one that always has some ping pong balls in it’s pockets.
Now don’t ask me why, but 6 in the morning after a good night’s raving is, for reasons unbeknown to myself, not the time of day when most people expect to come face to face with someone who’s busy regurgitating 50 odd ping pong balls! The mixture of shock, horror, disbelief, manic laughter and confusion it created amongst what until then, had been a peacefully chatting group of festival goers was music to my ears as, balls still spewing forth, I wondered off in search of more heads to play with.
The rest of Saturday was spent chillaxing backstage, chatting with fellow performers and working on some new and frustratingly difficult linking ring moves. I don’t know if I’ll ever put them in to my routine, but that’s not the point. The point is I’ve been trying to learn them for ages. To long to give up now.
Night time magic for an unsuspecting crowd;
It was about 11p.m. by the time I’d finished work and got changed, but this time I actually made it out into the festival in search of “fun” and found it in the crime scene tent.
The tent was crammed packed full of ravers. All facing the stage and dancing to the repetitive beat of music blasting out at a stupidly loud volume. I made my way to the front left-hand side of the stage, then slowly made my way across to the right-hand side. This was a slow and laborious task as I had to watch out for flailing arms and bopping ravers that were packed tighter than lemmings on a cliff top. Luckily this is just what I wanted as it gave me a chance to move slowly, doing heads in as I moved.
I have a magic illusion the effect of which is this. I can pull a small yet bright light out of thin air, then make it disappear at will. Add to this a paper bag and little bit of imagination. The result is that I’m eating lights like a kiddy eats sweets. Taking them out of the paper bag and putting them into my mouth (Oh, and occasionally snorting them up my nose). The reactions I got as I slowly made my way through the crowd with a dead pan, nonchalant look on my face was great Several times I weaved my way through the crowd with this gag. Then, bored with the lights, I retraced my steps, this time regurgitating ping pong balls (of doom).
Some people’s idea of a fun night out is dancing to a repetitive beat, others like to get wasted on beer (or whatever). Me? my idea of a fun night out is doing magic when it’s just not expected. The reactions are totally different from performing on a stage. Most people laugh and a few totally freak out over it, which just adds to the amusement of their friends.
Eventually I tired of these games and retired to the chill out tent. Here I sat of a sofa and joined in a conversation or two whilst enjoying a rather exquisite bottle of chilli mead, a gift from the magic mead company. Next to me a young man happily snored away, oblivious to the face paint that his so called friends were applying to any and all exposed parts of his body. Some games are just timeless.
Sunday morning in the chill out tent;
As always, I awoke early on the sunday and wandered out into the arena in search of a cup of tea. Then, tea in hand (actually it was two teas, one in each hand) I made my way back to the chill out tent. I wasn’t surprised to see the same people sitting in the same chairs, even the paint plastered young man hadn’t awakened, or even moved. In fact the only thing that had changed about him was the amount of face paint that was plastered all over his body. Well, that and the fact that, bored with painting him, people had started to see what they could balance on him without waking him up, a sort of human buckaroo. This included beer cans, ashtrays, a full sized wooden barrel, a hay bale and a really nice looking arm chair. All balanced with the precarious precision that I, as a juggler, could really appreciate. Like I said, some games are timeless. Which presumably is why they’s also tied his shoelaces together! I finished my teas, placed some cushions where I hoped he’d fall (I’m nothing if not kind) then headed on my way safe in the knowledge that I’ve done my good deed for the day.
Sunday night was the last show of the festival and Cosmo had given us all a free hand to do whatever we wanted. The only stipulation was that it had to be obscure and obscure it certainly was. The highlight of that show for me was a hilarious routine by Lucas, Jack and Wilson. Clad in nothing other than a towel each (in Wilson’s case, a towel and a squeezebox) they proceeded to use the towels to perform various juggling maneuvers whilst doing their best not to reveal too much of themselves. It was the sort of routine that Jim Morrison would of been proud of*. Considering the fact that they’d never tried it in front of a live audence before (or, I suspect, since) none of them showed just how nervous they really were.
*(if you get that joke, then you’re an old hippy).
Monday morning was spent breaking camp and saying my goodbyes to friends both old and new. Then I just sat and waited until Stormageddon and jester Dragonfly came to pick me up and take me home to a warm bed and a hot bath. Oh luxury.
So, marks out of 10 for the Maui Waui festival
Layout and organization = 12
Musical diversity = 12
Food prices = 9
All round entertainment = 9 (it loses one point as I feel it could do with some roaming walk about acts, both day and night time)
Friendliness = 15 (one of the most friendly festivals I’ve been to in a very long time)
Is it worth going to if you’re a punter……… HELL YES.