Squaring The Wheel
Jens Altheimer @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Le Cascadeur
5:30pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013
“A story about thinking outside the box,” the Fringe Guide promised. I like the idea of that, especially when delivered as a children’s show – I think that anything that encourages non-traditional thought processes is brilliant.
But after a mere five minutes of Squaring The Wheel, I’ve written it off… I’m completely unengaged, and I’m struggling to think of another show that delivered as much ennui in as short a time. Whilst Jens Altheimer performs some simple tricks throughout the show – hat juggling, some reasonable sleeve-in-sleeve slight-of-hand – none of it grabs me in any way… in fact, the rest of his set (in all its Rube Goldberg-ian glory) drags attention away from the human performance.
But the first time the stage is put to any significant use – the first of Altheimer’s two elaborate stunts, involving balls rolling around like a Mouse Trap game, and other toys used as mechanical triggers – doesn’t really pay off. The show starts to garner a little interest when Altheimer juggles a broom with two sticks, engages a woman in the audience in paper-bag-popping percussion, and creates music with PVC-pipe instruments. The second Rube Goldberg machine is much better than the first, facilitating some clever juggling that’s visually intriguing, but the closure to the show is weak and unsatisfying.
I’m sure the idea behind Squaring The Wheel is honourable; I’m sure Altheimer is entirely pure in his intentions… that he wants to put on an engaging, family-friendly show. But too much of it feels ramshackle and half-arsed… and bits of it remind me of when I used to play the aforementioned Mouse Trap as a kid: when the trap would get triggered and fail. There’s quirky engineering curiosities on display, but they’re obscured by dodgy implementations and a lack of polish.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 11, 2013