Anyone inclined to think street theatre is on the wane should check out the Scotiabank BuskerFest which begins this evening and runs through the weekend.
What: Scotiabank BuskerFest. More than 60 street performers, including jugglers, magicians and acrobats.
When: Four days this weekend, starting Thursday evening.
Where: Yonge Street between Queen and College.
Admission: Entry to the BuskerFest area is by donation, which benefits Epilepsy Toronto. Performers will also ask for donations, which is their sole source of compensation.
Now in its 14th year, the event features 60 different acts including contortionists, jugglers, comedians and fire-eaters.
This year BuskerFest moves from its longtime home outside St. Lawrence Market to a pedestrianized strip of Yonge Street between Queen and College.
North America’s largest street entertainment festival, BuskerFest is run as a charity by Epilepsy Toronto.
Patrons are asked for a donation as they enter the festival area, but the performers’ compensation comes entirely from money they collect passing a hat among spectators.
"It’s great that it’s pay-what-you-can and we’re hoping people will be generous on both sides," organizer Mackenzie Muldoon said.
The performers follow no fixed schedule but here's a list of five BuskerFest acts visitors will want to watch out for.
Catwall Acrobats – This off-the-wall Quebec act combines swing music with a brand of trampoline trickery that’s hard to stop watching.
Charlie Caper – In the nimble hands of this Swedish slight-of-hand artist objects don’t just disappear, they liquefy. Check out this video — with subtitles — of Caper’s considerable chops from an episode of Talang Sveringe (a.k.a. Sweden’s Got Talent), a contest he won. BuskerFest patrons who refuse to drop coins into Caper’s cup may unknowingly have them plucked from their ears.
Jonathan Burns – This rubbery limbed man delivers an unusual mix of contortion and comedy. In this video from Jay Leno's show, a fully clothed Burns manages to remove his underwear while keeping his pants on. In another Burns trick posted on his website, an assistant sets alight a book of matches clenched in Burns’s teeth, using a yo-yo as the striker.
Sauruses – Imported from the Netherlands, this troupe of towering prehistoric puppets looks as though they’ve escaped from the set of a Lord of the Rings movie. The video shows them stalking a stunned audience at the 2010 BuskerFest.
Scott Jackson – This Toronto-born human beat box delivers rapid-fire drum, bass, computer and cymbal sounds you’d swear were coming from a synthesizer and not his own mouth. "It’s unbelievable to watch," said Muldoon. "You’re not sure how he makes those sounds, but I’ve been up close when he’s doing it. There are no wires."
Check this video of Jackson as he belts out the beats in a duet with Canadian hip-hop legend Maestro Fresh Wes.