Festival of Fools - Peewee Has His Say

Wise men say only fools rush in, but we can't help falling in love with the Festival of Fools

Since 2004, each May Bank Holiday weekend has seen the centre of Belfast filled with comedians, acrobats, strange characters and extraordinary creatures from around the world, as local audiences get up close and personal with the cream of local and international street theatre.

Mingling with the public will be a variety of Walkabout acts - including Dirk the Homeless Robot - presented by the Electric Circus from the Netherlands. On first appearances, Dirk seems to be a tramp, pushing a shopping trolley and playing a 100-year-old organ for the amusement of curious onlookers.

But there's more to Dirk than meets the eye - he's the first of a new breed of street performers, subverting the expectations of audiences and making them question their everyday human interactions. For his trouble, Dirk has elicited surprise, amusement and even alarm, as when he was arrested in a German shopping centre.

Home-grown talent comes in the shape of the Belfast Youth Circus. Having started as a community project 25 years ago, Ireland's only circus school has been instrumental in keeping the Festival of Fools running, invited acts from all over the world to Belfast for mutual inspiration. They themselves have showcased their talents in such far flung places as Australia, Peru and Belgium, and this year's show will be taken on the road, unicycles included, through Northern Ireland and Luxemburg.

With the festival brochure already off to the printer, even more acts were added to the schedule. One surprise addition to the line-up is Stickleback Plasticus, with their new act, the Singing Cats. We caught up with Stickleback's main cat, Peewee, and asked him what brings him to the festival.

'I really like coming to the Festival of Fools. I've been here five out of the last six years. Because the festival comes early in the season, I see it as an opportunity to create a new act and showcase my art. In other years we've done things like Ballroom Dancers - before Strictly Come Dancing!'

He anticipates that the festival will be as good, or even better than previous years, and notes that director, Will Chamberlain of the Belfast Community Circus, takes good care of the artists. Belfast too plays a part in making the Festival of Fools so attractive to performers.

'Belfast audiences are great fun,' adds Peewee. 'Even when we're performing in front of a small audience, in a secluded place, they are always 100% behind us. You might only be performing to a small crowd of 60 or 70 people, but it feels like 500.'

So, what will Singing Cats consist of? Peewee is careful not to reveal all his secrets... 'Let the cat out of the bag, you mean?' he laughs. 'The style is improvised and very unique to us - audiences enjoy the improvised nature of our shows.

'It's about two cats that live in separate bins who do puppetry and a bit of hunting - she gives birth to seven kittens, he hopes one of them is actually his! Kids love it, adults love it. There's something in it for everybody. It's the purr-fect show!'

Except for those with very responsible jobs, or the most Scrooge-like bosses, the long WilKat/May Day weekend should allow everyone explore a city transformed into a vibrant open-air spectacle. With the bank holidays marked on the calendar and the performers waiting in the wings, all that's left is for the sun to also make an appearance.

Check out What's On guide for information on all Festival of Fools events.