Ian Weightman

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The 'Who's Foo' of Street Theatre

What would make two seemingly normal young women want to wear lampshades on their heads, and walk around a city centre prompting passers-by join their make-believe bus tour?

Cue comments along the lines of "It takes all sorts..."!

Just as there are now all sorts of reasons for keeping a watchful eye out for "Maison Foo", which translates literally as the "house of mischievous fools", and which comprises two of the most energetic young ladies on the planet.

Although, given that they spend half of their working lives adopting the persona of Alien Tourists from Planet Flip Flop, it's even debatable as to whether or not they are, indeed, from a different planet.

You need to meet them to make your own minds up about that.  Or else watch them perform their carefully crafted street theatre to audiences, who visibly move all the way up the scale, from bemused, to amused.

Inhabitants of planet Derby, Bethany Sheldon and Kathryn Lowe both trained in Theatre, and found they shared the same ambitions (and mischievously absurd and surreal sense of humour).

While Bethany trained at Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre and has trained throughout Europe in various acting and puppetry techniques, Kathryn trained at Bretton Hall in Theatre Acting and has also spent time training in Keith Johnstone's improvisation techniques with Kevin Tomlinson of Kepow Theatre.

Favourite street theatre characters portrayed by Maison Foo include the curiously charming intergalactic Alien Tourists all the way from Planet Flip Flop; a dusting down from the Hostesses with the Mostesses; 1950s etiquette experts The Trolley Dollies; a lesson in love at the portable wooing booth of Puppet Mr Pegg; and a good old moan with the Nosey Nanas, better known as the NAFs (Nans Against Festivals).

But their big break through came at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival, where their poignant stage show Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin which had the local, regional and national theatre critics urging Festival goers to book their seats as quickly as possible.

Not surprisingly, it became one of Edinburgh's sell-out shows, with audiences flocking in to see "a lost lost street and a lost lost house that seemed to have misplaced it's own..." in an intriguing tale following "the story of a wall, a floor and a chimney, a forgotten old lady and the memories that lie within".  And with an inventive blend of clowning, visual theatre and puppetry Maison Foo were able to bring to life the imaginative topsy-turvy world lurking behind the door of Number 92!

So what's next for the terrible twins of street theatre?

A national tour lurks in the wings.  As does an ever growing calendar of street theatre appearances.

They're worth looking-out for.  And very easily recognised.  Who else would be seen in Derby's Cathedral Quarter with a lampshade on their head?

For more details, visit http://www.maisonfoo.com/

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