fringe: total nonstop tricks

adelaide fringe: total nonstop tricks (sparkle, skinny, shoulders and shorts)
I once described a circus troupe in a previous Fringe as cookie dough... they hadn't yet become what they ultimately would be, but with a little time and love, they would definitely get there.

Using the same analogy, and in the best possible way, Total Nonstop Tricks can most accurately be described as "ingredients". They're not quite at the cookie dough stage yet, let alone cookies, but all of the required elements are there, the recipe is solid, they just haven't gotten to where they need to be.

I can see where their influences come from. From the start of the act, to the costumes (I'm guessing they normally wear the t-shirts above, but given the weather they all performed sans shirt), to the overall feel of the show, it's clear that Gravity and other Myths is a major influence, but I feel like these boys (along with a number of other young circus acts I've seen) could do with either serving an apprenticeship with GAOM or being mentored by them. Whatever GAOM did turned them from a good act to a great act, and hopefully it's information that could be given to the next acts coming down the line.

I've seen a lot of circus/physical theatre acts and this is the first one where it hasn't felt completely in control at certain points. And it's also the first time where the base for the balancing tricks has very clearly shown the effort that it takes to do a number of them.

Now, I can't seem to find the names of the four boys, so I'm going to refer to them by the nicknames that came to me as I was watching the show... Shorts, Skinny, Shoulders and Sparkle. The reasons for some of them will become apparent as I go.

After the opening act which was where the influence of GAOM was probably the strongest, with all four boys performing and Shorts and Shoulders throwing Skinny around like he was an acrobatic crash test dummy. It also felt like at any point Skinny might get slammed headfirst (or buttfirst) into the floor. Not in a deliberate way, as I mentioned earlier it was more that it was just on the edge of being out of control. That carried over until one of the boys (either Shorts or Shoulders, I can't remember now) accidentally slammed into the DJ mixing table near the corner of the stage.

Then the show broke up into individual sections for each of the boys.

First Shorts performed a juggling act which included some tricks, or variations on tricks, I haven't seen before... but at the same time it felt like only one in four of the tricks really same off without a hitch. Sometimes with physical theatre/circus shows I wonder if the performers occasionally flub a trick on purpose to build up audience reaction when they actually make it... but I'm pretty sure this wasn't one of those situations.

Next was Skinny (who, if he's older than about 14, I'll eat my ticket stub) with a really beautiful routine on the handstand canes... it helped that he seems so incredibly light and delicate, so there was quite an ethereal quality to his routine. I would love to be able to fast forward say five years and see what his routine would look like then once he's completely grown into his body.

Now, according to something they said at the end of the show, there was supposed to be a fifth cast member, a girl, who was missing (actually she was sitting in the front row of the audience, right near me... and apologies, I did cut her out of the image at the top of the post since she wasn't part of the show I saw). I'm not completely sure where she would have fitted into the show to be honest, although I feel like she may have been half of the tumbling/acrobatic routine that Shoulders did next.

This did feel like it was missing something, and Shoulders, as I mentioned before, isn't great at hiding the effort that it took to do the tricks. It's possible he may be slightly injured or just sore, he did have a strapped shoulder and a brace on his ankle. But even so...

And no disrespect to the missing girl, but I was kind of disappointed that the show wasn't just the four boys... it would be a definite point of difference between them and most of the other mixed acts, and I can't actually think of another physical theatre show, especially a local one, that has four young guys like this one. True, it's partly also because I do enjoy the energy of all-male circus, but still.

Last up in the solo round was Sparkle... Sparkle got that nickname mostly because he really has the most personality of the four... and he did a quirky little mobile phone sound inspired hip hop dance number. Having watched a lot of hip hop on So You Think You Can Dance, I can't say it was the best routine I've ever seen, but it was fun, and there were a couple of amazing bits, like his arm isolations where his shoulders and biceps seem to move in ways I didn't realise were possible. And the idea to use phone sounds was definitely unique.

The little sequence with him and, I think, Shorts (or Shoulders... to be honest, all my attention was on Sparkle, and they were all dressed pretty much the same) at the end of his number would be amazing fleshed out into an entire routine, possibly involving the three other boys (but ending in the same way).

This is definitely an act I would go and see again, if only to watch them grow and develop into the, to use my earlier analogy, cookies I think they'll eventually become. And I do think they'll be good cookies, they're just not quite there yet.

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