A comedy of few errors, Circus Geeks’ Beta Testing invites audiences in to see the world through the eyes of three geeky boys, who show us their juggling-centred lives in many clever, impressive, and hilariously awkward ways.
The storyline intertwines the interesting life of a juggler with an outsider’s perception of what a juggler is. When they say they’re jugglers, they’re not talking about being ‘hobby’ jugglers, not ‘free time’ jugglers, not ‘once-in-a-while’ jugglers… they mean actual ‘for-a-living’ jugglers. They toy with ideas of what the public thinks of jugglers, and the sad truth that spectators take jugglers’ skills for granted until the juggler does something so insane that they regain the spectator’s attention. It really gets you to look at circus life from a whole new perspective.
Each actor’s personality shines through in their individual and group skits. There is a clear diversity of character between them all, which adds to the comedy as they all feed off of each other and work well as a group.
The boys skilfully demonstrate their abilities as both actors and athletes, continuously wowing the audience with impressive tricks while also eliciting laughs with their relatable comedy. Their skill is apparent as they juggle all sorts of crazy things – from normal balls, rings, and pins to tea bags, mugs, hats, gloves, and cigars. It’s clear that they have put in hours of hard work and practice to perfect the skills that they can finally showcase for others, from juggling three objects to seven. Heck, they show that they can pretty much juggle anything you put into their hands!
They may have their first identity as jugglers, but they truly show their nerdy side in the presentation of the show. They creatively illustrate their points with old computer-style graphs and typography, with two geeks comically acting out each idea that the third narrates from the screen. The sides of the stage are set up almost like a messy boy’s room, with laptops, storage cubes, juggling paraphernalia, and apparent junk (the purpose of which you always find out later) sprinkling desk tables.
Lighting and music always matches the mood, with an impressive production value inside the surprisingly spacious Udderbelly stage. They open up their bag of tricks even more at the end with an artistic live-video overlay as they juggle ten or more glowing balls as a group, weaving and dancing through each other as the balls are thrown and caught every which way.
The group usually completes all their impressive tricks, but effectively deals with any mess-ups with nerdy, awkward humour. There are many corny jokes cracked – some of which are slightly too corny – but to which the audience will always respond with a chuckle anyway. There are some situations where it’s not clear if the awkwardness is intentional or not, such as a prolonged nail-biting sequence of mess-ups that may or may not have been intended to be that long. The performers, however, got through it in the end.
It was definitely slapstick humour – or, rather, slap-fish (in one act, someone is slapped in the face with a fish when they fail to complete a trick). But you will have to go and see the show to get the whole story on that one.
Beta Testing constantly navigates the line between awkwardly funny and inspiringly impressive, which is definitely a line that you would not have even known existed until watching this show.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London, UK, 0844 545 8282