BirdMen to flock at free 20th Fremantle International Street Arts Festival over Easter weekend


BirdMen.
BirdMen.

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, where 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.

“Those conditions and heavy rain or snow aren’t very good but of course that won’t be a problem here.”

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 non-existent 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.

Festival goers 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.”

Times and places can be found at www.streetartsfestival.com.au.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Fremantle International Street Arts Festival

Where: Streets of Fremantle

When: March 30 to April 2

Entry: free