Coffee with Sid Rasputin

This was a big turning-point in my street career, Jon (Sid Rasputin) asked me to have a coffee with him. So far he'd only said about two words to me.

During the chat he told me that initially he thought I'd last a couple of weeks at the most and here I was a few months later still wanting to learn. It was this desire to learn that prompted the chat and coffee, and not only that, he had taken notice of how fast I had progressed and my dogged determination to succeed.

The chat over the coffee was very inspirational and it changed a lot of my actions immediately; basically he laid down some rules for me.

I was still wearing the tailed coat over a T-Shirt and jeans and Jon said that if I wanted to perform street theatre rather than just street performance then I should consider wearing a costume rather than a half-hearted attempt at something "street". Jon had noticed that I was leaning towards a more theatrical performance rather than just doing a collection of random magic tricks. "It's all or nothing" he said. I knew he taught street theatre techniques in arts festivals around Europe so I took what Jon was telling me very seriously. Jon taught me that a character is much more likely to succeed than just having some cute lines. I decided to devote more time to characterisation, I was already headed in that direction and this was the encouragement I needed to focus my ideas.

These are the basic rules of Street Performance.

  1. Attract the attention of passers-by
  2. Ask then to come forward and position them where you want them to be
  3. Teach them how to be a crowd - these people have probably never met before and will be timid amongst strangers, get them to clap and cheer when you ask them to
  4. Entertain them and during the performance move people around and involve people in the act.
  5. Bottle them

If you have done 1 through 4 correctly you will have cut down the amount of people who walk off at the end of the act. About one third of the audience will walk off at the end of the performance, there are many reasons for this; the person has no money, they only caught the end your act, they only have large bills and would rather give you something smaller - there are so many other reasons and that's just the way it is.

Analysing the points you will notice that 1 through 4 is all about control;

  • you stop them from walking by
  • you position them where you want them to be
  • you teach them to clap and cheer - on your command
  • and finally you move them around and use them in your act but only when you want them to move

If you have controlled them so far the theory is that when you ask them for money they will obey your command once more and give freely and after that it is all about cutting down on the amount of people who walk away.

These rules and the constructive observations about how to develop my character were so amazingly generous from such a gifted performer, even years after the Covent Garden era Jon and I are still good friends and have shared many adventures and good times together.

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