What's on worldwide: Greek mad hatters ... Russian clowns ... Naked Japanese ...
Sunday 10 January 1999
The Russian Clowning Genius, Slava Polunin, is performing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. His acclaimed show fuses surreal and comic humour, displaying moments of poignancy, tenderness and laughter as in the best Russian circus tradition. Call 0171-734 4555 for tickets.
Until 22 January
Sick of winter already? Sail in the sunshine to the world's largest sailing event, the 1999 World Championships, held at Port Philip in Melbourne. They will feature individual sailing championships for Olympic and international sailing classes, the Port Philip Regatta for keelboats as well as conference and exhibition events.
Until 26 January
The Sydney festival is an arts orgy; dance, music, theatre, visual arts. Some of the main events this year include the Netherlands Opera and the Young Victorian Theatre Company's acclaimed version of Grimm's Tales. As usual, there will be a galaxy of free attractions in the Darling Harbour area, with a number of concerts scheduled in the forecourt of the Opera House around the Rocks. Cinema buffs should pack a picnic and a case of chilled stubbies and head for Sydney's Centennial Park where, Tuesdays to Sundays until 14 February, a selection of classic and contemporary films will be shown.
Until 15 March
Throughout the next couple of months, weather permitting, courting couples will take to the ice as Budapest's main open-air ice rink takes up its annual residency in the City Park. The outdoor rink, overlooked by Vajdahunyad Castle, is the traditional place for Hungarian families, school children and amorous teenagers to disport themselves during winter months. Parents and chaperones watch from the safety of the bar while Uncle Pretzel skates along selling his salty wares.
If gaudy interpretations of Chinese legends are your thing, then head for Singapore's mythological theme park, Haw Par Villa, tomorrow. Visitors can expect statues depicting such gruesome scenes as the Ten Courts of Hell, where sinners receive gory retribution for past errors, and the Moral Lessons aisle, featuring unhappy endings for those who indulge in gambling, wine, women and song.
Doya Doya is billed in Osaka as a "huge naked festival". Despite sounding like a giant Japanese love-in, this event is actually a serious competition between young Japanese men and it marks the climax of the Shusho-e Matsuri festival, an entreaty to the gods for peace and an ample harvest. The object of the bizarre finale is a race to obtain the "amulet of the cow god", a talisman which is said to bring good harvests to farmers. This rather unsightly trial involves a competition between 20 or 30 of Osaka's finest young males clad in nothing but tiny headbands, scrambling uphill to reach a shrine.
The Ati-Atihan Festival is the Mardi Gras of the Philippines. Although this vibrant annual celebration is held in towns and villages throughout the country, it reaches unparalleled party heights in the town of Kalibo, on Panay Island. Long before the carnival begins, Kalibo townspeople can think of little else but the sound of tom-toms that dominates the show from beginning to end. The sequence of events seems to be: get drunk, dance and cover yourself in soot. The three-day bash dates back 600 years and celebrates the arrival of the Datu refugees from Borneo, who coloured their faces black with soot in order to pass as locals. The festival was adapted by Spanish friars a few hundred years later, who brought a Christian element to the celebrations.
It's A Knockout-style shenanigans feature in the Ptra Carnival, the biggest pre-Lent festival in the Mediterranean. Known in Greek as Apokriatika, pre-Lenten carnivals take place across the country spanning a three-week period, climaxing in the seventh weekend before Easter, but the Ptra Carnival is the most outlandish. This Athenian port town is taken over with chariot parades featuring outrageously costumed revellers, a large proportion of whom are the city's gays. One of the main events seems to be the "hitting one another over the head with a plastic hammer" competition.
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