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Science busking TIPS

Ken Farquhar's top busking tips

Dr Ken Farquhar

My 3 top tips for Science Busking are...

1. Give the audience a reason to stop - Wear a costume, be happy and relaxed.

2. Less is more - start off with a small repertoire, aim to engage for 5 mins.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat, hone the lines, experiment with delivery. Than add/extended another 5 mins and before you know it you have a 45 minute show.

Short busking clip on YouTube

Street Theatre Techniques

Karen Bell, Bell and Bullock Circus Theatre

1. Ownership of Space.
Use your props to create interest and set out your space. Try to raise your props off of the ground i.e. waist height. Background/drop to perform against for focus.

Use of music or sound, creating expectation. Something good, interesting, exciting is going to happen.

2. Portable set.

3. You are the most important part of the show and your connection with the audience.

4. Crowd gather. Stillness not bluster. Confidence. Slowly set up i.e. Don’t shout or whistle, be still, go to whistle and then stop and wait. Creating interest and the unexpected.

5. Set up a rope/chalk line and try to bring in some kids/ audience to sit by it. Try turning your back and ushering them in, so you don’t get too close and intimidating. Try doing something funny with a child like tying them up or getting one to hold your coat or hat. This takes the focus off of you and puts it on your volunteer. Get the kid to enter the stage and the audience to applaud them. Be kind.

6. You are trying to warm up the crowd, to unite and bond them and to commit to watching your act. Try giving the audience a role or a stake in the show. Try giving them something to call out, so they actively participate. Don’t be put off if you have a very quiet audience. Stay positive and good humoured. Tease, josh and cajole them into joining in.

7. Perform a crowd pleasing, throwaway trick to establish your credibility and prove that you are worth watching.

8. Let people know what you are going to do/ attempt to help build tension and excitement. Let the audience clearly know how long they will be kept by letting them clearly see the task, trick, goal or problem you are setting yourself up with.

9. Come back to individuals to make them feel included. Try to remember names and treat any volunteers well.

10. Dealing with distractions. The street is more than the skills or tricks that you have. You have to acknowledge what is really happening i.e. people walking through your set. It can help to have lines to cover this. i.e. Bone for stray dog, remote control for planes, seagulls, children, to turn up the volume on audience response.

11. Make decisions about whether you perform verbally, silently or a mixture. Think of your spiel and patter. There are generic lines, but its good to make up your own.

12. Don’t give up if it goes pear shaped the first few times you perform it. Give your material a chance to grow and improve. Keep a diary of what works and why and be prepared to cut, tweak, change and adjust depending on the situation. Remember you are learning a skilled craft and that practice makes perfect. A bad show can bruise the ego, but it’s not the end of the world.

Other Considerations

  • What are your aims and objectives? Are they to entertain, explain, thought provoke, motivate?
  • Relationship with audience. Is it direct, 4th wall, do you include, implicate, provoke?
  • Status in the piece. Who is high and low, does status change?
  • What is physically suggested by the prop? What is metaphorically suggested. You can use the prop as something else.
  • Using personal experiences. Your likes, hobbies, job.
  • Attitudes – to activity, prop, surrounding (ie. Happy, bored, angry, in love, hungry, broken hearted)
  • Something real as prop.
  • Scenarios, genres, style ie. Cowboy, melodrama, sci-fi.
  • Not doing expected with prop. ie. Juggling or playing ones test tubes.

An Exercise

1. Do a trick/demo very simply and neutrally.

2. Repeat, but add a bit more to it to extend it. Raise your status. Make what you are doing more interesting. Have an attitude, do something unexpected etc.

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