Beta Testing @ Udderbelly Festival review

Circus Geeks is what they call themselves – three jugglers who combine their skills to create an entertaining yet innovative show. What is juggling? In a very matter-of-fact way it is throwing objects in the air and catching them. However when you put it like that it sounds quite bizarre that someone would want to dedicate their lives to perfecting such a skill, spending hours and hours throwing and catching and dropping and catching.

Circus Geeks, Beta Testing, Rings balls clubs, Udderbelly Festival 2015. Courtesy Joe Clark

But that is not all that juggling is about really and that is what these three performers, Arron Spark, Jon Udry and Matt Pang show us. When you think of any art form, whether it’s acting, dancing, or any circus skill, it all takes ridiculous amounts of dedication and it stems from the need to entertain, dazzle, impress, and I believe most importantly, to communicate. In Beta Testing they do entertain us but they also communicate and create thought-provoking scenarios. It is a very straightforward show; the performers bluntly expose their hopes (of catching), their fears (of dropping) and how important the audience’s opinion is to them.

There is a rather tense moment when two of them are doing a ten-ring trick and they keep failing. They play and linger on this failure for quite a long time to the point of initiating an argument between them. Of course all of this is planned yet it does cause that sense of uneasiness in the audience who wonder: will they make it? Are they really pretending or are they actually failing? There is a particular scene that is touching yet comic at the same time. A performer would juggle with 3, 4 and 5 balls and if he had no drops he would get a gummy bear, if he dropped any of the balls he would be hit in the face with a dead fish. It just keeps reminding me of how we train animals: a treat if you do the trick I want you to do, a punishment if you fail. Amongst the laughter generated by the performer being hit in the face with the fish is actually a depiction of an unfortunate human habit.

These circus geeks have spectacular numbers, sharp and inventive, always keeping you on the edge of your seat and clapping. However, for me, the last act is undoubtedly the most beautiful and out of the ordinary. Behind a see-through projector screen they juggle yellow balls between the three of them in complete synchrony with the same choreography being projected onto the screen. The line between the performers and the video blurs and it becomes hard to separate them. It is a feast of movement and colours and rather moving to witness. Nevertheless, I do wish the acts are more related and there is a clearer though-line between them rather than several disconnected bits. Maybe that can be the challenge for their next show. I hope these three performers keep innovating and re-discovering juggling – many can juggle but not many can present it the way this company has. 4/5 

Circus Geeks, Beta Testing, Ring Juggling, Udderbelly Festival 2015. Courtesy Joe Clark

Review written by Sofia Moura.

Beta Testing is currently showing at the Udderbelly until Sunday 21st June. For more information on the production, visit here…

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