Preview: Big In Falkirk, Various venues, Falkirk

Why don't we do it in the road?
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The Independent Culture

The home of the world's first and only rotating boat-lift, the town of Falkirk is better known for its contribution to Scottish canal life than for its radical theatre. Yet, for the past six years, Falkirk has invited some of Europe's most extreme performers to take part in Big In Falkirk, Scotland's largest street theatre festival.

The home of the world's first and only rotating boat-lift, the town of Falkirk is better known for its contribution to Scottish canal life than for its radical theatre. Yet, for the past six years, Falkirk has invited some of Europe's most extreme performers to take part in Big In Falkirk, Scotland's largest street theatre festival.

The festival's organiser, Neil Butler, says the event came out of a discussion about fireworks. "Seven years ago, I was talking to the council about ways to celebrate Falkirk's millennium and we got on to what they wanted from their general arts policy. They were incredibly visionary, and the result was Big In Falkirk."

Since then, performers ranging from the pop band McFly to the Improbable Theatre company, best known for its off-the-wall West End hit Shockheaded Peter, have headed to Falkirk to entertain more than 70,000 people each year.

Butler hates the snobbery traditionally directed toward street entertainment. "We have developed these temples to art called theatres, galleries and concert halls," he says, "but you need to have had a certain type of education to appreciate them. I think the work we do extends the minds of our audiences just as effectively as any gallery."

Chloe Dear, the producer of Boilerhouse, which is performing its new show 3600 Seconds at this year's festival, says that street theatre itself is often to blame for this image: "Often you'll get great images but text is largely absent. To combat this, we do content-driven work. This year we're concentrating on the subjectivity of time."

Dear believes that outdoor theatre pushes street performers to be more innovative than their peers in conventional theatre. "We have to think about the audience all the time. If they aren't engrossed they can just walk away," she says. "You have to think about playing to the young guy on the corner as well as to families who can't normally go the theatre because they have kids."

30 April and 1 May ( www.biginfalkirk.com)

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