BETA TESTING Udderbelly at the South BAnk SE1


With August looming over the horizon, there comes a time when the critic needs to harden up, sit on some prickly astroturf leaning on a dustbin, eating a falafal wrap and staring up forebodingly at an enormous upturned purple inflatable cow. Just to remember that it’ll soon be time to brace up for the Fringe. Luckily, London has its own Udderbelly season now, with every kind of oddity and adventure and showoff and physical-theatre explosion. So down I went to see the Circus Geeks explain the nature and psychology of juggling.
And so they do. This hour-long session is an oddity, even amid the circus-variety-standup Udderbelly world, because Matt Pang, Aaron Sparks and Jon Udry are accomplished jugglers – of clubs, balls, hoops, chairs, diabolos, top hats, anything life throws at them – but rather than merely dazzling and demonstrating, they want to discuss. And deconstruct. And admit what it’s like when you drop one. A vox pop (bits of sound are fed in, and bits of video, breathtaking, on the screen) says among other things that it is a metaphor for life, and less kindly that “only other jugglers” are really interested: the cruel paradox being that the better a juggler is, the longer he or she can go on, the more likely the audience are to get a bit bored….theatricality demands danger and conflict, and a really sucessful performer makes this art look smooth and easy. Bummer, as the lads would say.

It’s an entertaining hour, and has taught me something of the lexicon of the trade: I now know the difference between oldschool, newschool, Russian, Mexican (very fast) and French (interpretative mimetic lecoq-y stuff). I know how to breathe the word “Gatto!” after a great child prodigy when something is superb. So there you are. Can face the Fringe programme now. Been in my first purple cow. Summer’s begun… to 21 June

rating There’s really no point. Read the above and you’ll see if you fancy it. I did.


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