AMSTERDAM’S COMPLEAT FOOLS

A new book about actors, musicians, clowns and fools by Michael Evans & Johnny Melville

The Plandemic gave me the opportunity to down tools from performing as performer but instead of becoming frantic about the lockdowns like many people I concentrated on a more positive line and sat to write this book. It was a fruitful and entertaining time as I lived back thirty, forty and fifty years of experiences that I would have never have traded for much else in my life. It was challenging and exhausting in many ways since any book which requires accurate archiving needs absolutely correct information.

That was hard, sometimes forced due to memory loss and confusion to cross check with various people online who were also there at those fabulous Fools Festivals in the Netherlands. Google gave little help since most of the stories I wanted to tell were indeed long before internet and even computers.

I conducted many video conferences over the days, weeks and months of our brutal social confinements from Barcelona, Spain with Michael Evans who was also in lockdown but far away in Utah in the USA. We did our best to compensate for the distant time zones. We would discuss perspectives, angles, pictures, themes and I would suggest and take on articles that he hadn’t even considered. What has occurred is quite a unique and memorable book of an amazingly fruitful and creative period in the history of World Theatre. Michael wrote articles too on the American scene and did a wonderful job of restoring and processing the programs, photographs and other graphics which were primitive to say the least in the 1970s.

Here below are a list of reviews from readers, clown and fool performers & the press.

LEO BASSI ☆☆☆☆☆ 4 October 2023

Great book !!!…My friend from Germany , Ziggy Schroeder , creator of Theater Labor from Bielefeld was in my house 3 days ago and went directly to the book and leafed through it…’amazing…amazing!!!

Dr. SUSAN CROFT in UNFINISHED HISTORIES NEWSLETTER ☆☆☆☆☆ 19 May 2023

It’s taken a while to review this extraordinary book, not least because of its sheer size and weight: it runs to 630 A4 pages! But compared to most academic volumes it offers huge value for its price tag. It is copiously illustrated, providing complete digitised reproductions of every programme for Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools from 1975 to 1984, partly written in English, partly in Dutch, plus sketches, posters, photos, programmes, listings, street theatre permits, schedules…. This is a gift in itself, but these are introduced by lengthy fascinating essays and commentaries from Johnny Melville of Salakta Balloon Band and Michael Evans of the Salt Lake City Mime Troupe offering detailed accounts of individuals, shows, training, touring, international collaborations, that zing with life and offer some consolation for those of us who missed seeing them in their heyday. The book provides the connective tissue between so much radical art practice, experiments in community living and the larger social situation of the time. From key venues like Oval House in London, where some of the first seeds of the Festivals of Fools were sown, to the Shaffy, Melkweg, Paradiso and Vandelpark in Amsterdam where the annual and later biennial festivals took place, it gives detailed and vivid, verbal and visual accounts. Additionally there are descriptions of the work of  legendary individuals such as Lindsay Kemp, Katie Duck, Emil Wolk, Ian Hinchliffe and numerous others, plus accounts of key works by companies like Incubus, Friends Roadshow, Crystal Theatre of the SaintFreehold, Footsbarn, Abrakadabra, Kaboodle, Fine Artistes and many more plus Dogtroep, Hauser Orkater, Earth Circus, Mummenschanz: the book offers endless riches. Plus a Foreword by Jango Edwards, detailed Contents list, a lengthy index of the festivals, apart from a few proofing errors this is a bible and the go-to volume for anyone interested in clowning, mime, physical and visual performance of the period. Order it if you can or get a Library to do so….

HELEN LANNIGAN Director MimeLondon ☆☆☆☆☆ 2 June 2023

A wonderful book ( a very weighty hardback tome !!!) was published last year, written by Johnny Melville and Michael Evans – Amsterdam’s Compleat Fools: Full colour programs from all of Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools between 1975 and 1984, plus more…It was a real labour of love for them and records the work of so many clowns who performed at that time. Happily, it also features London International Mime Festival…

JOAN MERWYN ☆☆☆☆☆ on Barnes & Noble (click for full review) July 2022

This book ought to be available in every library in the US and abroad…

The MUST-HAVE mime-clown-foolery memorabilia book…!

JOAN BORGMAN ☆☆☆☆☆ on Barnes & Noble (click for full review) July 2022

if you have any interest in the history of Indoor, outdoor, theatrical or street performance, this book is a MUST for your library

ADAM GERTSACOV ☆☆☆☆☆ on his Personal Blog (click for full review) November 2022

…this book is a MUST read.  It is thorough, fascinating, and entertaining.

If you would like to order a copy of COMPLEAT FOOLS – and why not indeed? – please write to me at johnny@johnnymelville.com with ‘book’ in the subject line.

Festival of Fools Amsterdam, 1978: IMPROV NIGHT with (L to R): Matt Mitler, Johnny Melville, Justin Case & Peter Wear
Johnny Melville performing as clown
Johnny Melville of Salakta Balloon Band performing in Deptford London, 1974
Michael Evans (L) performing with Theatre Slapstique at the Openlucht Theater, Vondel Park, Amsterdam. 1976

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