Circus Month: Review - 'Box of Frogs' at Jackson's Lane

November 11, 2011



One of the joys of Circus Month is the opportunity to see some genuinely weird and wonderful acts that admittedly might not be suitable for corporate events, but serve give a broader understanding of Circus as a genre. After all, if we just stuck to what we know works at Corporate Events - we wouldn't be able to push boundaries with some of our stranger acts... every booking would a cocktail pianist or a DJ.

Case in point - Stumble Circus' new show 'Box of Frogs''; a higgledy-piggledy, disjointed jumble of circus snippets weaved together by a vague narrative that deals with Bipolar disorder in a bickering surrogate family. While Circus proves to be an oddly fitting medium to chart the of the ups and downs of Bipolar disorder, it's never going to be something we put forward as an idea for a corporate gig. That being said, 'Box of Frogs' is brimming with off-the-wall ideas that we're eager to crowbar into future event entertainment.

Take, for instance, the show's innovative multimedia elements - a series of mismatched screens and monitors that show everything from juggling acts to a caravan full of children’s toys... I mean collectibles. Performers intermittently hop behind screens and seamlessly interact with the juggler, sometimes emerging from behind the screen juggling, leaving the on screen performer empty handed. Here it was used to convey a sense of disjointedness and separation between its characters but it could work equally well in a corporate context, especially for events with a technological theme.

Elsewhere, backing music was provided by what can only be described as a "two man Jazz trio" who created a Tom Waites-esque twanging, clattering musical backdrop that was perfect for the show. With the pair clutching at various instruments scattered around them and often playing two things at once, they fit snuggly into the ramshackle vibe of the circus performance.

But the quirkiness and avant-garde tendencies of the show shouldn't distract from the genuine talent on display; a human pyramid on a moving bicycle driven by a wailing drunk man, a stunning hoop display and some frantic rope-work garnered the usual gasps and spatters of applause from an audience who were often made to wait for their circus 'fix' between rambling anecdotes about Playmobil and arguments over who is wearing whose clothes. There’s enough in Box of Frogs to justify the price of admission but spectators are made to wait for it – occasionally being rewarded with spontaneous bursts of high energy before slumping back into the languid rhythm of the rest of the show. Pretty clever considering the overarching theme but no doubt frustrating for those who come expecting non-stop backflips and high wires.

Go into 'Box of Frogs' expecting Cirque du Soleil and you'll be disappointed - but taken on its own terms Stumble Circus' show is engaging, inventive and occasionally touching in a way that few circus shows manage, or even try to be.