They brought their magic to Edinburgh from the other side of the world and now, three weeks and 42 shows later, Java Dance Theatre are on their way back to New Zealand.
From the cab it was wonderful to see blank, wary or even grumpy punters board the bus then get off an hour later with smiles on their faces, dancing in the cobbled street, singing and clapping along to the mandolin while being led away by the performers to the finale in a bar on George Square.
Back of the Bus may have been held in a small venue – the top deck of RM737, a 1961 Routemaster on the move – but it’s a big-hearted show, funny and interactive and action packed. And more than 1,200 people must have got to see it in total.
Driving the bus through the busy streets of the Meadows, Tollcross and the Old Town became routine but this was not the usual weddings or corporate trips.
Above my head, feet thumped and laughter or applause filtered down. I tried to catch the strains of the music to tell me where ideally we should be at any particular point. Do we do the extra loop around Castle Terrace? Or try to hold back a fraction… It was mostly out of our hands, of course. My daughter Stella did a fine job as conductor, with her younger sister, Iona, also getting in on the act a couple of times for her debut on the platform. Let’s not forget the charming Sean either. Behind the wheel Jim and Martin put in sterling shifts too.
One of the conductors’ tougher tasks was frantically clearing away the popcorn, crisps and marshmallows that were strewn all over the seats and floor by a certain performer to a rousing crescendo of Vivaldi.
There were a few scheduled stops along the way. The first one, at the Meadows, brought everyone together in a circle holding hands under the trees while the dancers brought out the audience’s inner children. (There were outer children too.) Some were invited to do forward rolls or cartwheels after a quick demo. Most obliged and were applauded. It’s quite rare to see a show that involves people without humiliating them.
Then on to the Natural Health Centre on Bread Street. I’m not quite sure what happened inside each time but everyone filed back on looking even more blissed out and amused, before the last leg.
Thank you Sacha Copland and your whole troupe for providing such a special show, day after day. And thank you to everyone who came onboard and helped create the fun. — Sam Phipps