A Truly Lackluster Street Performance
Although he refused to give me his name, demanding money for the privilege, “the Bubbler” may be recognized in the future as a far-below-par street performer in his mid thirties. I was not the only spectator who stopped hopefully in Niewmarkt when the bespectacled Bubbler pedaled into the Chinese district square and blew up a teal kiddie pool. I was, however one of few spectators who remained engaged in the street performance for an appreciable amount of time. Onlookers and passersby ranged from children with parents to skateboarding teenagers to elderly tourists, a typical amalgam for a café-lined Amsterdam street.
The neighborhood was bustling under the hot sun when the Bubbler set up his act. He chose the optimal location to catch tourists traversing the neighborhood: at the center of the square with paired benches on two sides and crowded walking paths along the other two sides. The Bubbler’s dog loped in after the Bubbler and collapsed by the spectators in the shade, drawing ear scratches. Resting tourists would seem to be an easy crowd for a street performer, however it is doubtful that this particular act provided enough entertainment to keep them seated beyond their intended rest time.
Curiosity grew among onlookers as the Bubbler filled several multi-colored bowls and the kiddie pool with a yellowish liquid. He drew a bikini-shaped wire contraption from his backpack and connected it between two wooden dowels. He then dipped his contraption in the liquid and slowly waved it around, producing giant bubbles. Although the Bubbler alternated between the kiddie pool and the multi-colored bowls the bubbles produced appeared to be identical.
After a few dips the Bubbler’s hand movements changed subtly to produce many small bubbles. This change briefly delighted several children. Sadly they too soon grew bored after their parents pulled them away from the act, presumably so that the parents would not be charged for the interaction. The seated onlookers grew increasingly disinterested to the point that six of the fifteen people resting on the benches were engrossed in their cell phones. Others were involved in side conversations and still others had turned to face the opposite direction.
The Bubbler’s investment in his act was minimal at best. He seemed aloof in the least interesting way imaginable and eyed his bubbles with little concern. He was not so invested in his audience’s enjoyment that he humorously neglected his performance; neither was he intriguingly aloof to his audience in favor of his performance. He did not exhibit qualities of a street mime (in which not breaking character is distinctly important) so perhaps he too was simply bored of his act.
The most exciting moment of the performance was an aggressive act of audience participation in which an obviously intoxicated British man torpedoed out of a nearby bar and across the square to pop a bubble with his head. The effect was less exciting than he seemed to expect and he sauntered disappointedly out of the square without tipping. The Bubbler seemed surprised by the energetic move and tried for several minutes to repeat the same large bubble that had inspired the man. Unfortunately the Bubbler was unsuccessful in eliciting the exuberant response a second time. Perhaps the Bubbler wanted to end on this high note because he soon packed his bags and pedaled away.
The Bubbler appeared to be an old hat at street performance: he had a dog who was accustomed to his actions and he carried appropriate, slightly worn equipment. His bike was old and rusted in places but well-suited for his carrying purposes. This reviewer doubts that he is able to support himself on this performance alone, even if he moves frequently between locations. Perhaps this was just an off-day. Perhaps the day’s high temperatures affected the Bubbler as much as they affected his dog and the lethargic audience. Either way the performance was a disappointment amidst an otherwise pleasant Amsterdam neighborhood.