Mesmerising, magical, memorable

  • In unison: Playing By Air jugglers Michael Karas, Jacob Weiss and Ted Joblin (Photograph supplied)
  • Playing by Air jugglers Jacob Weiss, Michael Karas and Ted Joblin (Photograph supplied)

Playing By Air was, as the pun in the title suggests, playful and full of witty fun.

It was a high-energy show — and that was the audience before the curtain went up at the Earl Cameron Theatre on Saturday afternoon. The arrival of the dexterous trio on stage signalled the start of an hour-long, fast-paced show designed to meet the highest expectations of the littlest theatregoer, and they did not disappoint.

Combining musical excerpts from around the world and across the centuries, Jacob Weiss, Michael Karas and Ted Joblin juggled, balanced, manipulated and played a surprising range of objects — from a violin and a didgeridoo to foam batons, tubular bells and a flexible “xylophone” of bells you normally see on a hotel reception desk.

The show began and ended with the use of black light, adapting modern technology to create good, old-fashioned fun.

In between, bells, balls and batons, hoops and yo-yos flew over and across the stage in a dazzling display of manual dexterity. A muppet cousin and a “guest conductor” drawn from the audience also had cameo roles that added to the fun.

Although there were spectacular solo performances, the trio’s skills and flair were highlighted in a complex sequence involving musical bells, balls and “shell game” cups, resulting in a fast and entertaining sleight of hand that created rhythms reminiscent of a drum line, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the theme tune from the Indiana Jones films.

Audience participation was expected and encouraged with the programme notes providing tips for paying close attention during the show and promoting conversation after: naming the musical instruments, noting the colours, choreography, physical comedy and multitasking.

They also prompted personal reflection: what skills can you do at the same time? Can you make your friends laugh without saying a word? How can you give back to your community?

The question that rose most frequently in my mind, however, was “How do they do that?” It was often preceded by “Wow!”

Although short, it was intense. Good therapy for the doom and gloom that prevails elsewhere, and a reassurance that life can be a load of laughs.