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Marc Lambert on the man who takesjuggling into the realms of high art.
Jerome Thomas speaks about his art with the quiet intensity of an innovator. A juggler since he joined his first Compagnie at the age of fourteen. he has developed his skills and ideas in some radical directions over the last twenty years while performing and teaching. Coming from a background in cabaret and music hall. he has absorbed a wide variety of inﬂuences. citing Jaques Tati. Buster Keaton. jazz improvisation. and surrealist performance as exempliﬁed by Le Cirque Archaos. with whom he once worked. In his two-part show. Hie Hoe. all these and more come together to produce a highly unusual and original show.
‘You can say that hit ajuggler. a mime. a dancer. a choreographer. an acrobat.‘ he explains. “What is original about my work is that it defies boundaries. As an artist and creator. I try to surprise the audience by taking away their reference points as to the technique in question. So there are really two ways to view Hie Hoe. First. that it is an extension ofjuggling into surrealist spectacle. or. second. that this is no longerjust juggling. that it goes beyond that into an original artform.‘
ln Hic. choreographed ‘to the millimetre'. four mysterious devils emerge from boxes to explore perpetual movement with their bodies and their juggling. creating a strange. dreamlike spectacle with more than a hint of menace. By contrast. Hoe is a free-form improvisational dialogue between Thomas and composer Pascal Lloret on piano. The aim. as Thomas neatly puts it. is ‘to hearjuggling and to see music'.
Throughout. one of Thomas's main aims has been to rediscover a simplicity in making art. This. he
illc iloc: ‘a strange, dreamlike spectacle with more than a hint of menace’
insists, is a vital development in juggling. which is usually only seen and admired in terms of technical virtuosity. ‘We have added to its history by returning to simplicity.‘ he asserts. ‘but at a very high level — Hie Hoe is important in the history of juggling for this reason. Simplicity is an artistic dimension as important as complexity. That's why i have called the formula for my show “The Childhood of Art". ‘
I file iioc (Fringe) Compagnie Jerome Thomas. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. until 3| Aug. 2pm. £9 (£8).
mamm- Flour Babies
From the pen that brought you Mrs Doubtfire comes Anne Fine’s tale of 40, classic no-hopers, and definitive todder for Tory conference rantings. This alliance 0f shirkers gets Iumbered with Mrs Cartwright’s science experiment. ‘They’re to be given iiour babies,’ says Bob Staunton, director of leicestershire Youth Arts. ‘At first, they don’t know what that means. They think it’s something to do with exploding flour all around the classroom. But in fact it’s a sack of flour that they have to have social responsibility for. They have to treat it as it it were a baby.’ Suddenly, these carefree titteen- year-olds are given a taste of parenthood. Their reaction? One youngster kicks his baby in the canal. Another entrepreneur sets up a
Lelcestershire Youth Arts pictured in last year’s production of Man Of la Mancha
creche and starts taking money off the others. “It also asks questions like, what is a school for, and what do you do for children who don’t fit in the system, for whom school really doesn’t mean too much,’ says Staunton, who had the major hand in this world premiere adaptation. iiis small cast of four are on average
seventeen years old.
‘It’s very relevant to any young person,’ he says about the piece. During the intense rehearsal period, he recalls one young girl saying, ‘When you do something you commit yourseit to, you carry it through, whatever. That’s what you do.’
out it’s not all drumming responsibility and commitment into the lives of lelcestershire youth. Quite the opposite, in fact. lYA’s professionalism is renowned at the Fringe, which is doubtless great experience for those youngsters who then go on to do stage management, or study drama at university ‘It’s not done tor that,’ Staunton maintains, however. ‘it’s done because young people want to strive for something. They get to make something and then they can leave it and go on to do something different.’ (Gabe Stewart) Floor Babies (Fringe) leicestershlre Youth Arts, St Ann’s Community Centre (Venue 55) 557 0459, 19-24 Aug, 2pm, £4.50 (£3.50).
I i Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake All the anecdotes that the outrageous Malcolm Hardee didn‘t manage to get into his autobiography of the same name. and some of the ones he did. I Stole Freddie Mercury's Birthday Cake (Fringe) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. The Pleasance (Venue 53) 556 6550. 16/17. 23—25 Aug. 2.50pm, £6 (£4). 18-21 Aug. 2.50pm. £5 (£3). I Exquisite Sister - The Diaries 0i Dorothy Wordsworth The story of the unsung talent who inspired both her brother. William Wordsworth. and his mate. Samuel Coleridge. told in her own words. Exquisite Sister - The Diaries 0f Dorothy Wordsworth (Fringe) West Yorkshire Playhouse. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 16/17. 23-25 Aug, 2.05pm. £8.50 /£ 7.50 (£7.50/£6.50).
"t. innit I The Last Of The McEachans A solo show written by John McGrath for his wife Elizabeth MacLennan. It concerns the relationship between Highlanders and ’white settlers' and is one of his best and funniest ever.
The Last Of The McEachans (Fringe) Freeway Stage. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. until 24 Aug (not I 8). 2.30pm. £5. I Hollywood Screams A one-man journey through almost a century of American humour, from Mae West to Woody Allen. by North Londoner Michael Roberts. See preview.
Hollywood Screams (Fringe) Ken Sharp Productions. The Honeycomb ( Venue I 39) 226 215 1. until 3] Aug. 2.30pm. £6 (£5).
I Wright From America Who was Richard Wright. and why does he hold such an important place in the pantheon of black American writers? This powerful play was the winner of this year’s Los Angeles Critics‘ Choice.
Wright From America (Fringe) Pearl Productions. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. until 3] Aug. lpm. [6 (£3.50).
THE LIST’S TIPS FOR THE BEST SHOWS 1PM—3PM
The List l6-22 Aug W96 27