As anyone knows developing new ideas can be a challenge but great when you get a result. During the Freedom Festival it became apparent that my re-introduction of the old “invisible dog on a lead” gag could do with a modern day revamp.
It’s amazing what you can buy on Ebay / Amazon and with a little bit of recycling of old uniform items I have from my St. John Ambulance days plus dog orientated props. The “Dog Handler” was realised.
Marketing of a street theatre act requires images, video footage and an enthusiastic friend / colleague who knows exactly what is required. The next hurdle was identifying a couple of locations to try him out. We decided on a park environment where other dog walkers would be present and somewhere an official presence would not look out of place. We began with initial shots of me in the gear and to be honest with just a ‘tash and a rather serious looking expression “he” does look quite scary.
The park visit was relatively uneventful and interactions were positive and amusing. Despite an obvious lack of “real dog” I was asked, “if it was a police dog?” and “when would the police station near by be opening” – quick responses of, ‘it’s a street theatre act” and “no I’m not with the police and neither is the dog!” plus the issuing of Apus Productions business cards and “you know The Gold Man in town…” dealt swiftly with people’s curiosity. Images and some video footage complete we popped for lunch (not in costume).
On the way back to the car we popped into my local pet shop to check out any additional props that might help enhance the dog aspect of the costume but the proprietor had popped out so we agreed to revisit later. Where to next? The Gold Man’s stomping ground seemed like the best option. With permission from security control and a quick visit to the grassy area on the Park Street side some more giggles and ‘poop bag’ antics were recorded. Time to head back to visit Amy at the pet shop and tick the box on our check list of job well done.
Parking on a match day in the Chanterlands Avenue area of Hull is a nightmare. So we were lucky to get a spot just opposite the shop. A police car passed and we thought nothing of it. Spotting the lovely ladies from the Guide Dogs we stopped for a chat and more smiles all round. We headed for the pet shop and after some more amusement we left. Hat in hand spotted the police car from earlier and after saying hello to the police officer (actually I recognised him) I was asked to step to the side of the pavement. He asked me what I was doing and I began to explain. He told us that anyone wearing anything that gave the impression of “police” was running the risk of committing the offence of ‘impersonating a police officer’. It made me think of all the re-enacting we do in uniforms and how people could abuse a situation. He said it’s not just satisfactory to avoid wearing police badges and that any equipment worn together that gives an impression of police was a problem. I wonder how some security company dog handlers cope? This and probably not being a fan of street theatre acts we had a moment of concern as another police car arrived in support. He waved it on as he realised I had an invisible dog and was not in fact intending to commit a crime.
Apparently strippers and other entertainers that wear a costume that involves police style / badged outfits also have this problem (thank goodness I hadn’t also acquired hand cuffs / baton / gas). For me it’s all about the dog! He also appreciated that this was perhaps the only time I would be seen in public dressed like this and that it was a comedy character designed for festivals and events. It is to be performed in a specific area that is classed as private and never randomly where people would want to take me to task about a parking ticket or begin a similar negative interaction because they get the impression I am a real authority figure.
So in conclusion he looks real, he acts real BUT upon closer inspection there is no dog, the hat has a paw print badge with paw print ribbon and little dog buttons.
“The Dog Handler” – is now available for festivals and events. Always on the look out for anything unusual and be careful that the dog doesn’t ‘indicate’ or you could be in trouble.