Friday 9th March 2018 at Harrogate Theatre.
In What Does Stuff Do? Which is one of three pieces touring the UK in The Best of BE Festival, Robin Boon Dale takes us on a brief journey of the art of juggling. Skilfully juggling with various objects throughout, he narrates his actions to give insights into the training and mindset required to manipulate objects so impressively. This ‘lecture’ of sorts preaches on the art of juggling and circus performing through exploration of the role of objects in relation to yourself, themselves and whatever else falls into the mix. It does feel very odd at times as Dale asks: ‘Is juggling fluid?’, while he stands in an unfilled paddling pool with a jug of water and wine glasses at the ready… ‘In conclusion’ he later proclaims at the end of this highly unusual would-be-conference-talk featuring weird and wonderful physical demonstrations…and we burst into laughter. Not in mockery or even in appreciation of what we’ve been ‘taught’ but because this set is delivered with such intensely earnest passion despite the grand intellectualised claims made, that it’s almost impossible not to titter when finding yourself faced with someone so deeply convinced of their obscure argument.
Dale’s juggling skills are jaw-dropping to watch and the audience could be heard oohing and ahing their wonder throughout and this physical skill is naturally the central strength of the piece. There are some failed landings and a few stunts didn’t quite manage the big finish attempted, but that never detracts from the impressive skill of his actions. However, lines are blurred later in the piece when he begins to collide with props and miss marks – this accident-prone transformed character then uses a slapstick battle with a clipboard to hammer home his comic ability as well as to offer up more opinions on the relationships between people and objects… It’s impressive to learn that this is Dale’s final year performance piece which is based on a research project completed in his final year while studying Circomedia in Bristol; few newcomers find their undergraduate work paraded around the UK in this way. With some further development and some revisions of the script to combat the sensationalised and wildly bold claims made just a tad too over-exuberantly, I think this piece could find longevity.
Using his outrageously good juggling skills to wow us with ping pong ball, wine glasses, jugs and water, Dale works his backside off to convince us that objects have wondrous power and that we too have more power than we realise in that we can change the purpose of objects by changing the way we approach and use them. It’s a bit of a bizarre piece to say the least, but again, as with Lègende, this performer raises interesting ideas. Boon seems to ask most sincerely for important recognition of physical performers and their art; of the training circus performers undergo to re-define and re-evaluate their relationships with objects in order for them to perform and astound for our viewing surprise and delight. It’s worth a punt.
The Best of BE Festival continues to tour and you can find more information and ticket links here. Click here for my review of Légende and here for my review of Andrè and Dorine, the two other performances touring alongside What Does Stuff Do?