Much like throwing and catching a juggling ball, a great deal of precision is needed for a show like this to land. Robin Boon Dale is, unquestionably, a talented juggler – not just on a purely technical level, but also in terms of both the creative potential of the discipline, and its broader philosophical ramifications. He is also a charming and knowledgeable spokesperson, something the format of What Does Stuff Do? requires, delivered as it is in the style of a TED talk.
But it’s on this tricky midpoint between entertaining circus and thought-provoking seminar that the show wobbles slightly off balance. In exploring the metaphysical underpinnings of objects, manipulators, movements and systems, Dale packs his script with heady jargon and stodgy academese. And while he often punctures the resulting tension with a winking acknowledgement that sorry, this is all a bit technical – usually with a brilliantly unique routine that even seasoned jugglers (and fans) will find fresh – he doesn’t quite do that enough to keep us fully engaged.
This audience is head over heels whenever Dale switches to his stunts – particularly when he juggles water (!) and gets into an altercation with his flip chart. But they are noticeably restless during his longer, wordier passages, which is a shame as that’s where he seems most passionate. There are the makings of a truly excellent show here, but Dale’s musings on the nature of reality are currently quite hard to catch.