Madrid: Mean Streets

Posted on August 22, 2006

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by almendro

For years, it seemed, Madrid’s street performers were confined to your run-of-the-mill accordionists and wistful travelling Germans strumming out slightly off-key Beatles songs. But now, every summer seems to bring a new addition. First it was the Thai massage people, who would congregate at the Plazas del Oriente and Mayor and corral weary tourists into sitting on a stool and getting their muscles rubbed. (You may not think of the massage as performance, but believe me, the sight of an overweight, sunburned, somewhat embarrassed American having her limbs pulled this way and that by a wiry Asian man is nothing if not a spectacle.)

Then came the living statutes. On this front, Madrid continues to lag far, far behind Barcelona, where the rivalry among performers who stand around in outrageous costumes (my favorite: a talking head nestled in a big pan of paella) is fierce. Not only are there fewer in Madrid, but they tend not to do much.

This summer’s addition to the scene appears to be guys playing water glasses. In one afternoon I spotted two of them, each dressed in a white shirt and tie (because, after all, water-glass-playing is a formal business), each rubbing his finger around the rims of water glasses until they released the dulcet strains of, why yes, Hey Jude.

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