UpChuck, DownChuck, – Bath 2011 show

The jewel in a juggling convention’s crown is their all-star show of professional acts from talented performers on a stage, with seats, lights and psuedo-invisible backstage crew.  It is for all these reasons that I think Bath UpChuck puts on one of the best shows at the end of a one-day convention documented in a previous post.  A lecture theatre with three hundred spectators is quite the audience, I’ve worked in cinemas and theatres with less, so the show had to hit the right notes.

First off, compère Magic Sam – The People’s Magician warmed us all up with his light-hearted and interactive sleight of hand.  His rapport with the audience was just lovely and his magic, though not entirely original was entertaining.  The Multiplying Ball trick he performed with two young children made them believe they were magic, and that was the best reaction.  We all remember how magic made us feel the first time and he was keeping that alive.  Bringing out Cup & Balls is the oldest trick there is, but he managed to switch it up a bit with a bushel of apples.  He brought the show together and held his own.  He put us all in an open mood with sweet patter like an experienced speed-dater and introduced the first act:

Light Fantastic – www.lightfantastic.org.uk
The duo of Rob Firey and Annette Gliwa, a wine rack full of Aerotech Ultimates and two suits loaded in electroluminescent wire.  From my experience, they are both ever the professional performers and solid in the art of juggling, but I have seen juggling, I’ve seen glow juggling, I’ve even seen glow passing.  So by far the most impressive moments with mouth going “wow” were the synchronisations of club movements with lights and music.  Not even juggling, clubs did not need to flip.  I could watch them bust shapes with their clubs for the entire act.  An amazing amount of material possible with the illusion of moving pixels.  My top choice.

Kattitude
I met Kat in the union earlier, yet did not recognise her transformation for her performance of hooping to the beat.  She had a lovely presence and good technique, though more could have been done for a memorable act.  In front of a juggling audience, you can wager they’ve seen their fair share of things that spin and go up and down.  Challenge the preconceptions!  Excellent costume though.

Carlos Romero – www.merott.com/index.htm
As a student of the illustrious Circus Space school in London, Carlos knows how to put an act together.  Performed at UpChuck 2010 and at the BJC 2010 cabaret show with a catchy (pun intended) beatboxing and club routine, to the extent that I still hum along when I think about the act like a Pavlovian experimental subject.  I would not be upset if he rolled out the act again.  This time though, his persona was of a more aloof character, eyeing up the stagehands and treating any drops with a sense of disdain.  Another professional act, but again, a bit mundane

Gandinettes – www.gandinijuggling.com

An all-female juggling troupe, as if that was important, comprises of four of the top juggling talent in Europe and beyond under the umbrella of the Gandini Juggling Project.  Sean Gandini and company are renowned for world-class juggling acts that really impress.  When you saw the set up occurring on the stage, you knew something was going to happen with the number of props being laid out.  You couldn’t not look at the Gandinettes when on stage; not in a swimsuit competition sort of way, more of a mass fireworks display.  There was so much to be looking at any one time to the point of distraction: balls, clubs, rings, ribbons and even a jump rope.  You could never predict what would happen next, it looked like madness, but bottom line – very entertaining.  Gave plenty to think about during the intermission.

Seth Rider

So after refueling and a lovely bit of audience participation from Magic Sam, another student of Circus Space ready to launch into the freelance market – Seth Rider, starts an honestly baffling balls and clubs act to the background of Tom Waites – What’s He Building.  Comprising mostly of manipulations than straight up tricks, Seth confused the hell out of me as to where the act was going and striking more of a “performance artist” vibe like David Walliams in the zombie episode of “Spaced”.  The act ended with him kicking the balls strewn across the stage into bouquet of clubs against his chest and leaving the stage before I thought he had truly started.  A bit too weird for my liking, and I like pickled eggs.

Crystal Wizard – www.crystal-wizard.co.uk

If there was ever a guy who called himself a wizard and looked like one, Chris Brown (not that one) looks like a wizard.  Flawless skills with an acrylic contact ball the size and weight of a cannonball in an amazing costume lifted straight out of Dungeons and Dragons I’m sure he never tires of wearing.  Moving onto some smooth multi-ball contact juggling, the backstages did a top job of lighting as the shadows were just as mesmerising and I had forgotten the cannonball was balanced on his head the entire time!  If it wasn’t in his name, I would have guessed he really was a wizard.

Folkert Erkelens

16 years old, born in Brazil to Dutch parents and raised in sunny England.  Oh, and he’s magic with diabolos.  I’ve been out of the diabolo scene for a couple of years now, but there’s a real draw of diabolo to the “younguns” who pick it up and excel like they’ve been locked in a warehouse from toddling and forced to practice relentlessly to become the ultimate diaboloist *cough Chinese State Circus cough*.  Folkert is great with his skills and has hit the competition scene hard with technically loaded routines and brought the same flavour to UpChuck.  And this is an issue I have with many “performers”.  A routine which is a showcase of what you can do is only a routine if you’re the only one that does it.  Unfortunately, no-one is interested in seeing how fast eight Olympic sprinters can run, they’re interested in how fast one of them can run.  Or how badly one of them can ruin four years of preparation by tripping on his laces and taking out the two guys next to him.  An act composed entirely of the best tricks they have learnt does not a show make.  He wore a hat, made me think of Jason Mraz, and that’s all I can remember.  And I’m sorry to say that because he has the technical ability to perform a genuinely interesting routine.  Check out Cie Filophile to see what I mean.

Green Eyed Zero – www.greeneyedzero.com

As the finale to the show, we were graced with the performance company from the halls of Circomedia  formed by Rachel Pollard and Sebastien Valade.  Having seen Sebastien’s juggling routines before, he puts performances together that are so clever and stylish that you feel inclined to appreciate the effort more than what’s happening in front of your eyes.  What we were shown was the juggling excerpt from their longer show, picked out as an appetiser to their other potential wonders.  It started with some handy manipulation of hardback books I’ve not seen since the “Great Domino Rally of Encyclopaedia Britannica” in middle school.  This progressed onto more conventional props with nice back and forths between the duo beyond both doing the same moves in time.  Their performance was exactly what I wanted to see; something new, interesting, thought out and done well.  Everything you could see and hear was designed and it brought you into the act.  Unfortunately, the height of the theatre’s ceiling wasn’t quite substantial enough for their swan song which seemed to consist of more clubs than I could count, readied for something amazing, to be then tossed into the air for them only to crash down like taking a kid to Toys R Us on Christmas Eve under the presumption they can pick out something great but you’ve gone to return that giant cuddly toy they’ve always wanted because there’s not enough room.  Not the greatest ending, left a bitter taste, though I am assured that the actual ending is quite something.  Shame.

Overall, it was a lovely end to a lovely convention.  A big commendation should be given to Ieuan Evans for organising the show, he found some fine performers.  And again to Backstage Technical Services who got every sound cue and lighting change perfect, put in a whole stage with wings, as well as keeping up with a small RC helicopter on a followspot lamp.  These are what make UpChuck shows really good shows.  Keep doing what you’re doing guys.  Until next year.

– C

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