Thursday, 18 February 2010

“You have to be a child or a fool to do this”

… said the schoolteacher in the square of the old town as the tribal parades lined up to perform at the Recife Carnival.

“Me, I never could. I’m a square. I can never relax. When I was a kid… My mother… I work for the government. I can’t dance in the street.”

It looks like he’s in the minority. I’m sitting in the café at the bus station, where the TV shows the highlights of todays carnval: thousands upon thousands of people singing, dancing and shaking it in the streets.

Perhaps we need to do this in order to relax. Perhaps we all need, sometimes, to be fools, no longer attached to our reputations or bound by the local social rules.

We talk about ‘letting off steam” at a party; people talk of Carnaval as a “valve” of social release.

Gender roles are very tight in Brazil; the Olinda Carnaval opens with 400 men parading in drag. The gender valve is released. When Bruce Parry, Man, went to Carnaval with his TV show Tribe, he played football in drag and absolutely loved it.

In the Roman Saturnalia celebrations, slaves and masters would switch roles, releasing the power valve. In the medieval European Feast of Fools, cities would have "a brief social revolution, in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position." Party and chaos descends under the eye of the Lord of Misrule, the Abbot of Unreason or the Pope of Fools: again, the power valve is released.

Perhaps we need this.

Perhaps this is what my boss, Graham, needed when he had the yearnings that led him to create the Fun Fed. He’s a powerful businessman. Maybe he needed to open the power valve, to dress as a fool and run through the streets wooping like a beggar for a weekend.

“You have to be a child or a food to do this,” said the school teacher. I’d add a few other routes:
masked; costumed; drunk; prepared with a team, a skit, a song, a practice; warmed up with specific fool/clown activities.

“British people are the wildest people I know,” said Chloe Goodchild, a hippy singing specialist who travels the world ‘unlocking’ people through song.

“Ah yes,” said Rolf the German, owner of the hotel I stayed in on my first night. "Everyone has it inside of them,” he said, “this wildness and this thirst for wildness. It’s opening people up that’s the issue! If you can get people to open up,” he tapped his chest, “this is good work, very good work.”

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