Review: Tesseract (Jacksons Lane)

Nacho Flores brings his unique balancing act to the London International Mime Festival

Nacho Flores in Tesseract
© Erik Damiano

If VU is about a man making a cup of tea, then Tesseract, another show in the 2018 London International Mime Festival, starts with something equally mundane – a man trying to water a plant. In this case, the only thing getting in the man’s way is that the plant is precariously balanced on a tall column of identically sized cubes, and the only way to reach it is, as you may have guessed, to climb a series of gradually ascending similarly sized cube towers.

We watch, rapt – it's like human-sized Jenga except with an actual human on top of the Jenga tower. Performer Nacho Flores wobbles, he jumps, he shuffles, edging his way up to the plant pot. It’s nothing short of mesmeric. Then, with a flourish, he succeeds, and the moment has passed.

From there, the circus performer, communicating only in grunts and shouts, divides his show up into different skits, each conducted with a different number of blocks, in a different part of the stage at Jackson's Lane. It all feels fresh, new and innovative, an original discipline never conducted by a circus performer. Some of these skits have wooden puppets, others only a solitary column of cubes. But more and more the stage becomes flooded by these wooden objects – perfectly symmetrical, yet littered anarchically across the performance space. A perfect blend of structure and chaos.

The experience is aided by some superb musical accompaniment provided by Alessandro Angius, a coarse, drum-infused rhythm that eventually gives way to a more serene, Led Zep-inspired series or melodies. Thomas Bourreau and Julie Daramon's lighting, particularly a few sidelights are equally atmospheric.

The problem is, Flores unbalances his own show by performing his best trick first. One sequence, with the small cube puppet, never really clicks. After the elaborate success of the plant watering, the remaining numbers never live up to the same scale or excitement. In proving to us from the off that he has mastered his own sense of balance, nothing ever really compares: it's like trying to open a performance of Wicked with a rendition of "Defying Gravity" – putting your showstopper in the first ten minutes.

This issue ripples through the remainder of the show's sequences – each, in isolation, impressive, but never building to a full-blown success. For a piece so dependent on allowing blocks to stack on each other, the lack of a justified crescendo feels underwhelming. The structure never feels tight. A superb display of talent, for sure, but somehow upended.

Tesseract runs at Jacksons Lane until 28 January.