Street theatre comes in many forms, with none more fascinating than the antics of the after midnight players, shortly before, and just after the clubs close.

Alcohol would seem to be the Producer, with the Police working as Director.

Such productions are presented throughout the UK, with regular performances, including matines.

The only way is Essex story was played out around the Hippodrome nightclub in the High Street in Colchester, where we were helping with a licensing project. Our task was to record the direction in which people traveled, after leaving the Hippodrome. A simple enough task, but clearly one that was soon identified by the police, who instantly befriended us and allowed us to work part of the night in the comfort of the riot van.

Around about 1.30am we noticed two men lying in the street. They were facing each other and staring at a beefburger that had been dropped, trodden on, and ground into the pavement. Each dared the other to eat it!

“Squaddies,” grumbled the police. “Let them get on with it.”

“Bet you guys are feeling pretty good at the moment,” I announced. “Crime in Essex down 42%.”

It`s an uncomfortable feeling, having innocently cracked the joke of the week, as the police roared with laughter.

“Nothing`s changed,” quipped the sergeant. “We just count it differently. We now give out fixed penalties instead of sending offenders to court. More fixed penalties, less crime.”

I nodded slowly, trying to look wise!

“Stop that now.” Came a shout from the side of the Hippodrome. “Stop that now.”

Two police officers had caught a young man urinating against the wall. More fixed penalties – less crime, but how does a man stop to order. Clearly the Colchester boys have phenomenal muscle control.

At the same time a drama was unfolding at the other side of the High Street, where a man was punching first his girl friend, then two men who went to help her, and finally a shop window.

As officers raced over to arrest him, he turned to attack them, but was soon overpowered, handcuffed, and led struggling towards the riot van.

“It`s not his fault,” sobbed his girlfriend as she tried to drag him free. “His drinks have been spiked.”

“Don`t worry,” replied the sergeant. “It will only take a few minutes to check if that`s true.”

“Oh well,” she stuttered. “They may not have been. I`m not sure. No, well maybe not.”

“Shall we take it as a “Not”?”

She nodded.

Meanwhile at the other side of the street there was no sign of the two squaddies.

As for the pavement trodden beefburger –

No sign of that either!

Living proof if you were ever in doubt –

The Only Way is Essex.


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