Can I put this out there to get it out of the way? I hate jugglers. Not mild indifference. My loathing of juggling is on such a scale, it makes me itch.
So when we saw the boffin-like title of the show, What Does Stuff Do and a handsome shirtless man pouring water in the image, we thought what’s not to like! Having booked in and arrived, only to be confronted with juggling balls, juggling rings and the announcement “This is a show about juggling”, you can imagine my horror. The only imaginable worse announcement would be “This is a show about bagpipes”.
Within minutes of the show starting, and following some fairly impressive juggling involving balls and a hope, the smiley performer clad only in swimming shorts, Robin Boon Dale, begins a scientific spiel. Unexpected in a juggling show.
He informs us that he uses “technical juggling as a research tool”. In between increasingly impressive juggling tricks, we learn about “affordances”. We discover the world of “siteswap”, the numeric notation used by jugglers to describe patterns, rhythms and transitions within their craft. We even might understand some of it.
The tricks are spectacular enough to draw involuntary gasps and oohs from the audience. Wine glasses are impressively spun about – thankfully with water. If he was splashing Pinot about like that, we’d be deducting a star.
Imagine Professor Brian Cox crossed with Baywatch but with juggling and you’ve pretty much got What Does Stuff Do? The show is an absolute idiosyncratic gem and Robin Boon Dale is a delightful, talented host. Who knew juggling could be so fascinating and fun! We take back everything we’ve ever said before. About juggling, never about bagpipes.
An unexpected gem – ★★★★ 4 stars