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2001: A Uni-Juggle Odyssey: 17/3/01 - Review by luke burrage : 20/3/01

Note to all:

Sorry about the lack of reviews of the following juggling conventions:

Hastings – I didn’t go.

Liverpool – I went but I can’t remember much as I was slightly tired. I say slightly tired but maybe I should say, “totally exhausted”. By the time I performed on stage I had been awake for just under 40 hours, including a 9 hour shift at work. It’s actually quite amusing watching the back the video I took of the event and comparing it to what I remember of the day. Needless to say, the review of the convention would have been as useful as the one I wrote of York. Useless, in other words. Rob Stone wrote a good review, which you can read here and are some pictures over here.

Leeds – To avoid a repeat of my experience in Liverpool I decided to get some sleep before turning up and performing. I got there just in time for the games which consisted of 5 ball endurance and then 50+ games of 3 club gladiators. Then I left the main hall to set up for the show. Which was amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I was in it. I heard some comments afterwards that it was better than some shows seen at the British Conventions but I wouldn’t know, seeing that I’ve only been to one BJC.

Ok, on with the review of

2001: A Uni-Juggle Odyssey

After a train journey from Scarborough, a lift from York in a car and a short walk from the car park I found myself in a queue at the registration desk. First I took this to mean that it was going to be a massive convention with hundreds of people because the last time I queued to get my convention pass was at BJC2k. But then I realised I might just have turned up on time, rather than hours late like I normally do.

I was given a pass. In fact, I wasn’t just given a pass, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have minded as I could have just thrown it in my bag. Instead, a pass was forced on me, a band of green tape was attached by sticking it to the hair on my arm. And it was “void if removed” which meant that the only way to stop it pulling out my arm hairs without ripping it was to dislocate my thumb and slip it over my hand.

Still, I went and dumped my stuff in the main hall which looked a bit like this:

It wasn’t quite that bad because there was a few big windows letting in some natural light. Or there was, until Little Paul broke a blind and halved the light again. It was a night-club/music venue so I guess there was a reason for the black walls and the expensive lighting rigs (which were interesting to juggle under). I found it interesting to throw my beanbags up and have them totally disappear. Even so, I managed that elusive ‘9 ball flash on a rolabola’ trick.

There was just enough space to juggle, even though one end of the hall was filled up with traders. I’m sure there were some other rooms with workshops running in them but I didn’t find them. Actually, I didn’t look.

After getting out my juggling balls in the black hole (it wasn’t as bad as the BOB venue though, at least it had windows), I looked around and noticed that everyone in the hall was juggling clubs. No rings, balls, diabolo, nothing. Just clubs. I’m not sure if this is significant in any way but it amused me.

Some guy announced over a loud haler that at ten past three anyone wanting to participate in the games should head over to another hall. I wondered who would bother carrying all their stuff to the other side of the campus just for the games but it turned out that everybody had to as they were closing the hall we were in to prepare for the show, four hours later. I’m not sure exactly what they did for four hours.

Anyway, we all carried our stuff through the snow (I wondered how it could be snowing somewhere in England but not in Scarbugger but my incomprehension was laid to rest when I walked home from the station on Sunday in a blizzard) to the other hall which looked a bit like this:

This was a perfect juggling hall. Why didn’t the organisers put all the jugglers in here for the day? Maybe it wasn’t available all day or because there was no bar in the room next door. Yes, that’s probably why. We almost convinced the organiser of the games that we could just juggle in the hall and do the games bit later but he convinced us by mentioning prizes.

As far as I could tell the prizes were either St. Patrick’s Day Guiness promotions or sweets. I thought it was amusing that I was given toffees for winning one game and an eight year old was given a beer poster. Nothing like starting them young. I really enjoyed the games, everyone in the hall joined in at least for a few games. Apart from little paul who just sat at the side reading a juggling magazine. At least I hope it was a juggling magazine. Thinking about it, those vibrating clubs that you could mail order looked a bit short.

I won a tub of Celebrations on the five ball endurance but only because Ben Beever wasn’t there. The rest of games were really good fun including some I’ve never done before including unicycle jousting, juggling limbo and volley club. In fact, I’ve still not done volley club, it seemed just slightly pointless to me.

After the games we were all thrown out of the hall. Again. We were directed to another room which was only just big enough to spin a top in and/or kick a hack sack out of the second story window. Or, for all the Americans reading this, the third story window.

Most people headed to the collection of chip shops, balti houses, pizza places, etc for their supper. Others were saving up their hunger for after the show and before they went to the club night downstairs. Some of us didn’t really feel like dancing until the wee hours of the morning (someone had been at work the night before and hadn’t slept much since he got up on Friday morning) and because anyone offering crash space was at the club we all went home straight after the show. Ah yes, the show... I was just getting to that.

I was chatting to Bibi (or was it Bichu?) earlier in the day and were joking about how the show was advertised as featuring “Bibi & Bichu, plus others” presumably they just hoped the others would turn up on the day to fill out the rest of the show. Unfortunately, our joking actually turned out to be quite accurate.

The first half of the show was terrible. I don’t think we actually saw any jugglers. Sure, there were jugglers on stage but every one of them used either glow balls or the in-house uv lights. Yawn. Glowing props don’t turn a bad juggling routine into good routine, they just make a bad routine into a bad routine with glowing props. Also, they are a bugger to photograph:

And a few to many of them seemed to just make it up as they went along. This wouldn’t have been that bad if we had been told it was just a renegade but it wasn’t really made clear. As far as the non-jugglers in audience, they probably don’t even realises what a renegade show is. Poor things. Anyway, the last time I saw someone just make up a routine as they went along was Ben Beever at Liverpool who ended with attempts at eleven balls and 7 ball multiplex tricks. Maybe I’ve just developed higher expectations for the public shows than what we saw in the first half of the 2001 show.

Oh, and one person appeared on stage with breasts, long hair, wearing tights and spinning a stick. And it was a bloke! More on him later.

In the interval I bought the very last raffle ticket but when it was drawn did I win? No. But then I never will, no matter how many tickets I buy. It is predetermined.

I also scribbled things next to the names of the acts where they were displayed on a whiteboard near the reception desk. My comments ranged from “wow” next to Bibi & Bichu’s name to “yawn” next to others. I didn’t quite add all I wanted to because I realised that I had been using the permanent marker pen rather than the whiteboard one. Ooops...

Opening the second half was Steve Arnold. He did a slick routine with one and two diabolos, maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen. He actually brought out three diabolos onto stage with him which got my hopes up that we would see him do them all but it seems one was just a backup. I think the routine was let down by the weird faces he pulled at us, the audience, which made me feel quite uncomfortable. The word “nonce” sprang to mind at some points but was dispelled by the tricks he managed to pull off with two diabolos at the end of his act.

I think he did a bit with glow stuff in the first act but I didn’t really care by that point. He could have been quite good but he was overwhelmed by the presiding crapness. His diabolo stuff was good though and he’s only young.

Kaleigh and Leigh. What can you say... Well, I heard this comment afterwards: “Same tricks, same midi track backing music, same structure, added breasts.”

Straight Jacket Circus. Well, where to begin? This was the Tarzan/Jane combination fantasy character I mentioned before. He did an act for us which he obviously does on the street for money. First he did some balancing on a ladder to heckles of “NICE ARSE!” from the back (could have been me) then did an amazing trick “Diving Through a Burning Hoop.”

“Wow!” I hear you say. But wait. He dived onto a safety mat. Even I could dive onto a safety mat and I can’t even do a forward roll. I still hear you muttering something like “...but would you do it through a burning hoop?” Well, get a load of this: the loop wasn’t even burning! He had tied bits of red paper around it instead for safety reasons. So in the end we got someone on stage, in tights, doing a dived forward roll onto a mat. If I wanted to see that I could hang out in a primary school gym class.

Not that I make a habit of hanging around in primary school gyms.

Still, he did a walking over broken glass trick and then laid on the glass with someone standing on him as the grand finale. That was slightly impressive if not just stupid. His heckle lines were a bit bizarre... at one point he threatened us with juggling. No, that would be a novel idea, considering we were at a juggling convention... He used a stupid name like Johnny Straightjacket and I heard he smelled pretty bad but I never noticed, sitting at the back.

And for conformation that the breasted, long-haired, tight-wearing pole spinner was actually a bloke, he gave us this image to take home with us:

Ian Merchant did a pretty routine with rings. I don't think everyone in the audience appreciated just how hard it actually was. I was very impressed with all the tricks and moves he did, about 90% I've never seen done before. He also brought extra props onto stage that he didn't use. I could have felt disappointed that he didn't juggle all eight rings but in the end I was wasn't: his act was excellent, right down to the choice of music.

And to round up the show: Bobo and Bilko! I’ve seen these guys so many times now that I know their routine off by heart and know exactly what to expect. The good thing is that what I expect is exactly what I like... hard juggling made to look easy and, more importantly, great fun. Also, this time they added something new to their act in the form of ten (count ‘em) club back to back passing.

It was a pity they didn't come back on stage for an encore though, we had to put up with the compere for a bit longer...

Actually, he wasn't that bad. I just wish comperes were a bit more honest about the act they've just seen. Hmm.....

Overall: Not sure if it was worth the eight quid I paid to get in.

Personal low point: The first half of the show. It really was that bad.

Personal high point: finding this...

© 2001 Luke Burrage