Hullabaloo in the Park artist blog: Joe Shipman, Egg People ‘Best in Show’

8 Sep ’23

From giant slices of cheese, to bubbles, cartwheels and colourful creatures, Hullabaloo in the Park was a riot of fun, creativity and joy! Among the sights and sounds in South Park, you might have stumbled upon a bunch of mischievous hounds, leaving all manner of mayhem and giggles in their wake…

Bringing their unique style of family-friendly street theatre to Hullabaloo in the Park, Liverpool-based Egg People did not disappoint with children and grown-ups revelling in the canine chaos of Best in Show.

Ahead of the festival, we caught a moment with leader of the pack Joe Shipman to talk about the power of street theatre, why he loves to rehearse in public, and why they’re putting man’s best friend centre stage.

You describe yourselves as ‘half a dozen performers finding joy in each others’ egg-centricities’, but how did Egg People start?

We actually started out as two separate companies, and just ran in parallel for a while. We spent a year or so supporting each other’s work before deciding we should come together and form one group.

What makes street theatre special?

We have no barriers: no stage, no lighting, no building. We even rehearse on the street! It’s culture for everyone.

Someone could be out shopping and suddenly they’ll come across a group of adults dressed as giant bumblebees dancing and playing in the street! Even if all that happens is that person goes home and tells someone what they’ve seen, it’s offering something outside of the norm, and hopefully something to bring some joy into their day!

Do you think audiences react differently to your pieces than they would in indoor settings?

Street theatre is unique in being so immediate and interactive. We like to explore boundaries, whether that’s physical environment or people’s perspectives, and our aim is always to get the public engaging with each other. It’s a really special thing to see adults interacting and playing with strangers or friends, and hopefully just having a wonderful time in a wonderful place.

How do you keep people engaged without invading their space? It must be a difficult balance..!

After all the years of working together, we’re pretty good at reading what the audience want from us. We try and cultivate layers of engagement so that every person in the audience can stay within their own comfort zone.

Some people will want a gentle, softer approach, standing at a distance and watching; others might want to be fully immersed in the chaos. You need to have permission for whatever you’re about to do – it’s all about making friends with your audience and then staying friends with them!

What’s the best thing about your job?

It really is the most fun you can have with your clothes on! It’s a joy, and everyone should have the chance to feel as alive as we do after performing. There’s definitely fear – you never know what’s going to happen – so it’s scary and a little dangerous, but to be able to be mischievous and play as an adult is just glorious.

For anyone who is yet to experience Best in Show, what can they expect?

Nonsense, absolute nonsense! It’s a semi-static piece so there are some set pieces and some walkabout elements too. It’s non-verbal, clown-based piece with competitions and games – the audience are at the centre of everything.

Why did you want to be part of Hullabaloo in the Park?

As well as performers, we’re all students of theatre so it’s always great to see as many shows as possible and see what other artists are doing. We’re a bunch of social butterflies too, so we always love hanging out in the green room with other artists, hearing about what the audiences are like and what the vibe of the event feels like to them. It’s what we base all our performances on and it can be different every time!

Can you describe Best in Show in 3 words?

Anarchic, camp, joyous!