Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“High energy chaos, with balloons and lots of laughs for the whole family. This show is only for people who like being silly and love balloons.”
Balloon and comedy maestro Chris Henry booms into the mic, turns balloons into movie characters, animals and more, (with the help of some wrist-operated sound effects and tunes), pretends to be a crap balloon artist only to demonstrate his lightning quick twisting skill. Loaded with gags, many deliberately aimed at the adults, this is a loud, quip-based show that results in balloon creations on stage, as well as in the audience, taking on shapes to delight the kids and also, on many occasions, make them whoop with laughter.
Henry has a strong stage presence, is often loud enough to rock Maggie’s Chamber and combine noisy balloon cabaret with groany and funny stand-up gags into a map-cap show.
The venue at the Free Sisters is a very long room, and I’ve seen a lot of family-friendly shows there over the year. This result is those nearer the back feeling a bit left out and not everything is easy to see. Get there early with your children and make sure you are as near the front as possible. There’s more scope for the performer to bring some of the action right into the heart of the space, otherwise it is all a bit distant and detached for at least a third of the audience. This show would thrive in the semi-round.
Amid all the chaotic fun there’s a charm to the routines, such as making animals appear within seconds. Many children (and animals) were charmed and fascinated when a cat or a giraffe appeared, seemingly out of a nowhere. This has always been the fascination of this craft offered as stage entertainment – there’s a bare simple magic to it. Sometimes the stand-up element was too long and I’d like to have seen a few more, wow-factor balloon-craft creations.
That said, every second of the hour is filled with some kind of action, comedy or demo. There’s plenty of audience interaction and the performer knows his craft. A core underlying message is that the fun is as important as the skill. Everyone can have a go. Chris Henry’s Balloonatics is essentially that message: We don’t need computers to have fun – a few balloons and a smiling face do the trick just as well.