Sunday, January 22, 2012

carny australia

"SHOWTRAIN is a new Australian musical about a bunch of carnies trying to save their beloved carnival train from extinction. Inspired by the real life train that used to travel up the north coast of Queensland in the 1940s and 50s, Showtrain is a loss of innocence story as well as a tale of greed, love and revenge, but in the end it's a story about identity, place and belonging.

Set in a time when a nation is discovering its own identity, Jimmy Roper heads north in search of his father. Hitching a ride on the Showtrain, Jimmy is lured into an unexpected way of life and quickly becomes the new boxing sensation. The carnies, including one lonely clown, pin all their hopes on him to save their carnival from being wiped from the face of the earth."

On their website they have some interesting information about carny history in Australia.

"In 1929 a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald said of sideshow alley "So much outstanding talent is packed into this small area that one realises what a priceless opportunity is offered to see the world's wonders at the show. One must see them to believe them. They should not be missed!"

Sideshow alley developed as a unique place on the Australian landscape. It was a temporary site exisiting in any one location for only a few days During this time a small world would appear, of tents and canvas booths, with line-up boards out front and signs in flaming colours and bold words to attract the patrons.

Sideshow alley was fun. It was also a window on other worlds for many Australians particularly those in isolated rural areas. Here they could see people from other cultures and other lands and people with physical abnormalities who otherwise were hidden away, and stare at the wondrous diversity of nature.

Those who chose not to enter still absorbed the influences of wonder and self affirmation. For as they gazed at the Vanity Fair that was formed by the performers they knew unconsciously that they were white, not the hue of an Indian snake charmer a Chinese juggler or a Filipino fire walker. They knew they were of 'normal' stature not a giant or a dwarf a fat person or a skeleton man. They also knew that they were a settled people in comparison with the Showies who were nomadic and always on the move.

Following the Sydney Easter Show the Showies would head north, to catch the Showtrain after the Gympie show in late May, in order to winter in Northern Queensland among the amusement-starved, free spending North Queenslanders. The Showtrain was an efficient operation, the Showies themselves marshalling the caravans and trucks off the flat top carriages. In two hours from the time of arrival side show men and women could be ready with tents and joints up ready to take money.

The end of the second world war broughts bright hopes. The Federal Labour Government's Ministry for Post-War Reconstruction planned to engineer Australia's brave new future. However the promise of post-war prosperity was cut short for many Showies. The Royal Agricultural Society announced that the Shows were being cleaned up. A committee would scrutinise applications and exclude any shows that did not fit in with the new improvement plan. Performing animals and freaks were not to be displayed. Many of the best pre-war acts, skillful jugglers, illusionists and freaks were deported under the White Australia Policy. The travelling show further suffered from the advent of television in Australia, although many performers simply left the road and the nomadic lifestyle they had cherished for so long for a more secure and settled future in front of the TV camera."

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