My Two Pence
THE NEW CONFORMITY
Cause & Effect Circus, Presentation House Theatre, Until December 2nd
By Liz Gloucester
This is a show with heart and substance, joy and suspense. It is also a privilege to be able to watch an entertainment our civilisations have been enjoying for millennia, giving wonder to all. I spent an hour mesmerised, my eyes glued to as many flying balls as they could muster but nonetheless feeling soothed by their undulating and oscillating pathways.
Each performer showcases a variety of talents and different manipulations of various balls, clubs and hoops- juggling is not just tossing and catching. I enjoyed the visual simplicity of Yuki Ueda's solo sequence; slowly adding to his number of twirling satellites until alas - the (intended) drop. While the more 'traditional' juggling itself is certainly hypnotic, the moments that impressed me the most were those of non-traditional manipulation. Ryan Mellors in particular excels during his isolation moves, the practise of making an object appear suspended and stuck while the performer moves around it.
I would award the MVP, possibly due to the unintentional hark back to David Bowie1, to Chris Murdoch's body-rolling with the transparent acrylic ball. The sequence is simply captivating; Murdoch never looks like he is manipulating the ball himself, they are simply dance partners weaving on and around each other and both are beautiful movers. This magic is similarly captured later during a tantalising duet between Murdoch and Mellors as they spin pyramids of balls in their palms, not unlike an unfathomable quantity of meditation balls, which transform into other-worldly creatures as they pirouette across the hands.
There is a fair amount of carefully constructed and surprisingly realistic stage violence. Hurrah! The children in the audience loved it. Not everyone's cup of tea but I found it very effective and funny – other companies take note – slapstick when done correctly does not incite bad feelings in your audience!
Pure execution is where the performance let itself down. By incorporating intentional drops for humour and narrative purposes they set themselves up for failure when understandable accidental drops occur, and parts of the show looked sloppy due to this device. The burden these performers carry on their shoulders is that as they are on the whole so slick and precise one misstep is very obvious. It is like watching an Olympic sport where turns, twirls and dives are heavily scrutinised and mistakes are costly. The introduction to the trio involves them walking PONG style about the stage, entering and exiting in robotic straight lines. Almost. One entrance through the curtains was slightly meandering, and that other cross to avoid a side light was a clear weave. Pernickety I know, but noticeable. Uniformity needs to be absolute in the moments where it is required, otherwise their story objective becomes hazy and ineffective.
I didn't think much of the narrative. It was an easy and overdone conceit; Someone doesn't quite fit in the crowd, breaks free and slowly entices others into his brave new world; which then inevitably becomes the New Conformity. It is the narrative of society all over and one we have heard over and over. Relatable- but dull – thank goodness for the juggling! Cause & Effect are our Jesters for the evening; here to entertain the crowd- and we stay with them through the highs and the lows; as they emote and they showboat, up and down, up and down.
1As much of a god among men as he was - Bowie did not perform any of the tricks in Labyrinth himself, the accolade is all down to contact juggling magnifico Michael Moschen