Don’t Fear The Mime

On a daily bases I walk through Dam Square in Amsterdam and on a daily bases I see something there that would strike fear into the hearts of most mortal men and women. In the middle of the square stands a figure wearing a dark cloak as black as the darkest night and holding a scythe as old as time itself. He is Death. He is the Grim Reaper. He stands there constantly, as if waiting for something or maybe someone.

I am not the only one that sees this entity of death either. Every now and then a passing tourist stops and looks up at his terrify visage as well. Does this mean they are to fall under his scythe? I don’t know but they stop momentarily, slowly lift their camera and take a photo with out realizing the payment he will demand. You might think he insists on taking their souls for the fatal snapshot but a Euro or two will usually do. He’s even happy to pose with children if their parents pay.

This is because he is really one of the many street performers that can be seen in Dam Square during the tourist season. There are at least half a dozen human statues regularly present. Some can stay still for hours (hardly blinking) but others don’t do statue like things (standing still for example) and are just there to pose for photos in their costumes. This seems a bit like cheating sometimes since they are covered from head to toe and wear masks. Some have put a lot of effort into making their costumes but there are a few who look like they simply rented a rubber mask and outfit from the local costume shop.

I’ve often wondered; with so many of them in one area do they ever have arguments over territory. Maybe any dispute is settled in a display of skills through the medium of a staring contest and any strike action involves constantly moving and refusing to stay still.

There are other types of street performers around Amsterdam as well. Jugglers, Magicians, Comedians and so on can mainly be found on the Leidseplein. There are few every now and then on Dam Square but that area is mainly the territory of the human statues. This also makes walking through the square feel like a Scooby Doo episode when the eyes of a painting follow someone.

However, the strangest street performer I have ever seen has to be the rather timid looking 50+ man who can sometimes be seen performing in Leidseplein. He arrives a few minutes before show time to slowly set up his rather complex looking rig of gymnastic equipment in front of all the people having a drink outside. Just at the point they might think the real performer is about to come out he suddenly strips down to a shiny gold posing pouch and starts to display his acrobatic skills. As strange as it might sound it is hard not to be impressed by what he can do and I hope when I am his age I can still be half as flexible. However, there is also something very scary about a man in a posing pouch walking around, holding out a hat for payment after the performance that just makes you give him money. It’s scarier then the Grim Reaper.

13 responses to “Don’t Fear The Mime”

  1. marycub says:

    In The Hague, on the street where the main shopping bit is (if your in the red light district you’ve gone too far) is a man who stands on a box with rats crawling all over him. So you’re walking down the street minding your own business if a little freaked out by rat man and suddenly he’s thrown something at you. Of course you scream because you think it’s a rat. And it is! But it’s only plastic. So now you are very embarrassed for falling for this trick and because everyone is laughing at you. He was still there when i went back to the Hague in 2004, and he was there when i started living in the Hague in 1995. He is probably still there now!! Weird thing is he’s actually scottish :-/

  2. flicka says:

    they’re only pretending to be street performers!
    just like the clowns only pretend to be a nice circus man.. in reality they’re all mean and wicked and out to get us all! ;)

  3. Bonestorm says:

    I’m 20 years younger than pouch guy and he sounds a lot more flexible than me. That’s utterly depressing. Maybe I look better in a pouch though…

  4. Matt says:

    I often street perform in a posing pouch!

    Nice image for you all there. Anyway – I love street performers. One of the things I love about London. They don’t have to many in the north west.

  5. Martin Bryant says:

    I’ve seen them. Neptune seemed to be a regular last year…

    Maybe if I could find my old posing pouch… ;-)

  6. zed says:

    we get a lot of street performers – the grim reaper, people who stand for hours making very few movements etc. but my favourite is Espace Speculoos which runs through july to the beginning of September. it’s on every saturday and usually have 3 street performances for free.

    some of them are excellent, some are pretty dull – but if you’re not paying, nor obliged to stay – who’s complaining ?

  7. bill says:

    Have you ever seen the movie Eurotrip? The whole thing about the street performers being territorial made me think of it.

    That Grim Reaper thing is crazy though. I’d love to get my own picture of that.

  8. marycub says:

    *shudder*

  9. Invader_Stu says:

    Marycub – When I first moved to Holland there was a very strange street performer like that as well. He wore clown make up but it was all smudged. He would stand in the middle of Dam square and hold out an orange and he would stay completely still until someone cam up to him. He would then all of a sudden laugh very loudly in their faces. The stuff of nightmares.

    Flicka – I think the evil clown with orange man proves your point as well.

    Bonestorm – Only one way to find out.

    Matt – But do you look as good as Bonestorm in your posing pouch.

    Martin – I can see this will turn into a contest of who looks better in a posing pouch. Maybe Marycub and Flicka would like to act as judges. There is a gladiator as well who must be a friend of Neptune(he’s still there too). Both their costumes are in identical in style.

  10. Invader_Stu says:

    zed – I know what you mean. Its the same here. Some are good and other are not so good but its free anyway like you said.

  11. BlondebutBright says:

    My favorite is the football guy in the Leidseplein. He always draws a big crowd. The statues freak me out, though. That’s why I prefer to stay on my bike, in the street.

  12. Invader_Stu says:

    Bill – I’ve not seen a fight yet but that would be a very strange event to see

    BlondebutBright – I know what you mean. That football guy is amazing. I over heard him having a conversation with tourist once explaining that he never got signed to a team because of an injury.

    I found a sort video of him on-line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwO2I78Qbwg&search=amsterdam%20street%20football

    After much searching I also found a very short and blurry video of posing pouch guy:
    http://video.google.nl/videoplay?docid=5764162629197898104&q=amsterdam+street+performer

  13. Betsy says:

    IS the Grim reaper still there? I took a photo with him once, and I want to know if he’s there??? Does anyone know anything about it?
    Ty

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