360 Allstars - review

2016-Auckland-Arts-Festival-Logo

B-boys on stage at The Civic? Hell, why not?

360 Allstars brings high-energy entertainment typically enjoyed on the streets to this most traditional of theatres.

The performers, from Australia, Europe, America and good old Christchurch, make this potentially risky leap with agility and even grace.

Among the five showmen are two B-boys, a basketball “freestyler”, a BMX “flatlander” and, er, a guy with a very large hoop.

Two musicians complete the ensemble. Far from being bit-players or supporters on the sidelines, they are at the heart of the show, each perched atop a large podium on stage. Gene Peterson, the show’s creator, juggles drums, percussion and keyboards, while live looping vocalist Sam Perry relishes his role as a ringmaster the kids of today can relate to. Live and pre-recorded footage on a big screen at the rear of the stage, and on two smaller ones in front of the musicians’ podiums, adds another element to this highly visual show.

For all its bells, whistles and up-to-the-minute street-styling, this is at heart a family-friendly variety show, and none the poorer for it.

There are drum rolls and plenty of “laaaadies and gentlemen, put your hands together!” but these guys are equally adept at turning them on their head – literally - as well as upside down and inside out.

The performers, world champs in their respective fields (who knew there was a world champion of flatlanding?), are slick and suitably athletic. They make spinning on your head or twirling two basketballs on one finger look, if not easy, then certainly achievable. Each knows how to play to the crowd and the laughs come readily, if occasionally a little predictably.
360 Allstars is lots of fun - undemanding at worst, and in its best moments, awe-inspiring.

The show is a series of mostly solo turns, each performer stepping into the spotlight to showcase his skills and tricks while Perry puts his impressive rapping and beatboxing skills to work.

A loop station and effects pedal are among Perry’s weapons of tech-wizardry. His live musical mashups are clever, even thrilling - at one point he creates a song from scratch using layers of cheek taps, tongue clicks, popping noises and vocals he conjures up on the spot.

The performer with the hoop as high as he is tall spins spread-eagled around the stage inside it, at times seeming, impossibly, to dance within it.

Lee Rock, the young breakdancer from down south, is a crowd favourite and not just because he’s a Kiwi with a sweet, bashful stage persona. He’s simply a joy to watch and proves the equal of Los Angeles-based breaker Kareem in a playful B-Boy Battle.

360 Allstars is lots of fun - undemanding at worst, and in its best moments, awe-inspiring. I’ve never seen a show like it, and I doubt The Civic has either.

360 Allstars, The Civic, March 18, 19 and 20.