Atelier 231 is this amazing street theatre creation centre. Imagine vast ex-train engine sheds with fully-equipt workshop spaces, office spaces and a fleet of caravans and apartments for artists in residence. It’s mind-boggling how much French society supports it’s artists.
It was our first gig in France and the first time the Hippo’s left the country so we were very excited. We performed two evenings so we had a chance to take in the sites across the river in Rouen during the day. Highlights included Rouen Cathedral (famous from Monet’s paintings) and the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. We walked lovely pedestrianised streets which were part old and part reconstructed to look old (after the severe bombings from WW2) and, of course, visited our share of cafes and boulangeries.
The act went well, crowds seemed to really enjoy the hippo (even if they were a bit baffled by the storytelling part of it, our French being non-existent) and the hippo behaved himself. We need to work out how to build lights into him for night gigs. That or accept that a large hippo will suddenly emerge out of the darkness and freak out festival goers.
The festival was a great mix of friends we regularly meet along the British street theatre scene (Pif-Paf, Acrojou, Artizani, Dr. Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band) and some impressive French companies such as a lovely fire garden by La Compagnie Carabosse and what was perhaps the best fire performance I’ve ever seen, Passage by La Salamandre.