Director & Performer: Wes Peden
“Zebra’s aesthetic is that of a futuristic chandelier with a sense of humour” states Wes Peden’s website and flyer. Whatever that may or may not mean it is in keeping with this quite bizarre juggling show. Produced by the world-famous Gandini Juggling Zebra is created and performed by world-renowned American juggler Wes Peden.
Why Zebra is so-called (other than everything onstage is black and white) is a mystery. Why Peden is dressed somewhere crossed between a basketball player with knee pads and a chintzy lamp with fringing is even more mysterious. What is crystal clear is witnessing the most technically incredible juggler in the world. What Peden achieves is beyond impressive and, at times, like a magic trick, you start to look for ways it must have been done because certain parts of routines are seemingly impossible. It is a lifetime of work on display condensed into a short, fifty-minute dance of aerial acrobatics.
His show, he tells us, is about shapes – circles, squares, triangles and lines. Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s artwork, Peden’s sparse stage is illuminated with four, floor flood lamps he positions and clicks on and off. The effect is a monochrome version of one of Kandinsky’s pictures as the shapes onstage blur into the shapes Peden creates through juggling. Circular rings compliment a turntable on which Peden plays electro-pop. Even changing the record becomes another challenging feat as one record is swapped for another whilst still juggling, or the needle is laid down using an extendable grabber. Peden is extremely precise in every minute detail onstage. Between segments, he is not afraid of silence and seems to walk in perpendicular straight lines to collect his next item. Yet, in contrast, he dances like a gymnast in various routines. His soundtracks create a trance-like, hypnotic state that only later in the show becomes evident that every nuance is choreographed tightly to the music.
Peden juggles rings that transform into butterflies, three balls and feather boa that becomes a dance of weight and grace, and three clubs that tick with metronomic precision. The most impressive part of his act is undoubtedly his five clubs routine that skirt on resembling a firework display or meteor shower. The astonishing skill displayed in this five-minute routine is worth the ticket price alone. Peden’s final routine with a dazzling display of juggling balls has tricks that are so fast it is impossible to keep up as elbows and arm creases become mini trampolines and six balls at once regularly take flight.
Zebra is a compact and extremely quirky one-man show. Although its concept seems an enigma its technical proficiency is extraordinary. If any of Peden’s routines were to be on a Britain’s Got Talent type of variety show it would undoubtedly be the next day’s water cooler moment in every office in the country. A showing of incredible skills making an excellent show.
Reviewed on 29 January 2020