Dance, physical theatre and circus review: Water on Mars

Juggling has never been in short supply at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and with the new wave of contemporary circus taking over the planet, we're seeing it more than ever on the theatrical stage.

Water on Mars Assembly roxy

Water on Mars

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)

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Juggling has never been in short supply at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and with the new wave of contemporary circus taking over the planet, we’re seeing it more than ever on the theatrical stage.

So to a certain extent, if you’ve seen one routine, you’ve kind of seen them all. The number of clubs, balls and hoops changes, and the skill level varies, but finding new and interesting ways to present juggling is a genuine challenge for circus groups.

Which is where Gandini Juggling steps in. In the past few years they’ve brought the Pina Bausch-inspired Smashed and the classical ballet fusion 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures – both of which were highly imaginative. But it’s not hyperbole to say that Water on Mars is the most enjoyable juggling show I’ve ever seen.

Although co-produced by Gandini, the performers call themselves Plastic Boom and comprise Americans Tony Pezzo and Wes Peden, and Patrick Elmnert from Sweden. Three men who must have spent an awful lot of time in each other’s company over the past couple of years, because this kind of slick interaction is not born overnight.

Rarely do any of them juggle alone – most of the show is spent adding to or taking away each other’s clubs and balls. Which is only interesting up to a point, unless you add in motion, physicality and all manner of props, set to a beat-heavy soundtrack. At times, when their implements of choice are whizzing through the air, genuine moments of beauty are created.

Other times you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing, so fiendishly tricky does it look (I wasn’t the only one gently shaking my head in disbelief on a number of occasions). Pezzo, Peden and Elmnert are also funny and hugely likable, with none of the pomp and applause-baiting that comes with some companies. They just get on with the job of using their skill and precision to entertain and engage.

What starts out as a beautifully dressed stage filled with lights and juggling paraphernalia ends in a wet, hoop-strewn mess, faced by an audience that simply can’t stop smiling.

Kelly Apter

Until 14 August. Today 5:30pm