Squaring the Wheel: Ipswich Art Gallery THE REVIEW

Squaring the Wheel


There is a mixture of excitement and anticipation in the air as I enter the darkened, classroom-sized room.  Little and big bodies are moving around each other as they eagerly find a spare “seat” on the cushion-covered floor and the not-so-hushed voices of the young bounce around the room in a flurry of motion and distraction.  The lights dim.  The moving bodies and excited voices still.  And for the next 60 minutes there is no further distraction as every eye is riveted on the performance that begins to unfold before us.

Squaring the Wheel is the latest exhibition on offer by the Ipswich Art Gallery and by all standards not a simple one to define.  Created and performed by Paris-trained Jens Altheimer, this award-winning one-man show is an engaging blend of skill and creativity, of energy, emotion and fun.  Altheimer draws the audience in with his mix of music, circus, mime, magic, puppetry and comedy and with little words spoken throughout the entire 60 minutes it is one that allows the imagination to be explored and the senses to be heightened quickly.

A holiday show like no other

As the show begins the stage itself triggers the curious mind as it is filled with a mess of steel wiring and loops, wheels and buckets, random stands and brooms, warning signs and dolls.  As your eyes wander over this confusion the sound of a fierce wind slowly fills the room and with a clever piece of hidden string a small tumbleweed appears to blow restlessly across the space.  It is here that our main (and only live) character enters the stage and through his acting and the sound effects alone it is obvious he is battling the wind.  What follows next is a clever and very funny skit as he catches and releases the wind in different parts of his clothing and body and within only the first few minutes of the show he has the audience both captivated and laughing out loud.

Squaring the Wheel

This pretty much continues unabated for the remaining hour as we follow this haphazard, quirky, forlorn (and yet easily excitable!) character on his own road to discovery as he complicates the simplest things in an endearing manner.  Possibly homeless and obviously hungry, it is with much humour we watch him also uncover the crazy mess of objects on the stage behind him and with growing interest we see the creations he makes of them.  There is a lot of emotion evoked as he makes himself a companion to combat his loneliness and then much laughter as he discovers his cheeky new friend has a fondness for chocolate too.  Whether it is creating the extraordinary out of the ordinary or re-using old objects to build fascinating contraptions it soon becomes apparent that this is no simple character.

The audience that I shared my performance with was made up predominantly with young, possibly easily distracted and over-excited school children.  The fact that they remained completely focussed on the stage for the entire hour should not be understated, nor the way Altheimer’s interactive show allowed them to participate in ways that had them oohing, ahhing and screaming out instructions along the way.


Due to the show’s length it is said that it is best suited to children 5 years and over but that it is enjoyable for people of all ages and of this I would agree.  I took along my two daughters, four and two, and whilst the two year old did get a little distracted half way through she was still in awe of many of the sights and sounds around her.  The cushioned seating is a welcome comfort for the small children and with designated exits pointed out if needed the show had a very relaxed and child-friendly feel to it.

My four year old was completely engrossed in the show and what the man was creating for the entire 60 minutes which I was very impressed by!  In particular she loved the magic and circus skills Altheimer has perfected (but then these are amongst the parts I loved best too).  His almost childlike wonder at things was mirrored in her face too, which I adored watching.

A highly engaging and somewhat magical show – this is sure to be a hit with young children and a delight for parents to watch too. You can book tickets at http://www.ipswichartgallery.qld.gov.au/book-now/

Wow…it’s a….Thingamabob!


The show does not end once the lights go up and the performance is over.  After his final bow Althemeier leads the audience downstairs to the main section of the Art Gallery where he has set up one of his biggest contraptions yet, aptly named the Thingamabob!  Ringed by low glass barriers kids (and adults) can delight as he starts at one end and triggers a chain reaction of gadgets.  Before their eyes from left to right a chain reaction is set off and it flips and swirls and bumps and twirls from the start until the finish.  When it completes the circuit a button is pressed and a recorded message is spoken to the captive audience.

The kids really loved this part of the show as they raced alongside the machine as it dominoed through its process.

Have a Ball at the Ball Run!

Ball Run Materials copy

After the Thingamabob demonstration it is finally time for budding engineers amongst the audience to have a go at creating their own gravity-defying ball run.  To help tie in with the show the art gallery has created a space and provided a range of recycled and basic materials for kids to experiment with.  Large mounted boards provide the canvases as families are encouraged to tape up different pipes, funnels and runs for their provided balls to travel along.

This is the perfect way to finish the day and was a great learning experience for the girls.  As we built up our own tracks (and tried out others that had been left behind) they marvelled at the way the ball dropped and swerved along the different routes.  Their chorus of cheers egging it on were delightful and we had a great conversation about gravity and why the ball travelled down the way it did too.

In the end it actually took a huge effort to drag my girls away from this project and I think anything that leaves this effect on them is a huge success.  I have to admit, I may have also stayed a little longer than I thought as we played with this section of the exhibit.

ballrun copy

Performance Dates and Tickets

Squaring the Wheel is running during the Easter school holidays from the 6th April – 19th April.  Please note there are no performances on Monday 7th April, Sunday 13th April or Good Friday, 18th April.  There are two performances daily at 10am and 12:30pm and bookings are essential.  Tickets are only a $5 per person (kids under 2 are free but must sit on an adults lap) and at that price are sure to disappear fast!  You can book your tickets and find out more information sbout this fantastic show here.

Brisbane Kids Reviews By Kids, For Kids

Find out what our 7 year old reviewer thought of her visit to the Ipswich Art Gallery to see Squaring the Wheel in this Through the Eyes of Brisbane Kids exclusive video –

About the Author
Melanie Byers
In a previous life, Melanie threw the obligatory hat in the air on graduating with a degree in Communications, packed her bags and spent 15 years working for the film and television industry in London and Australia. Today Melanie has 3 children and is keen on adventure around Brisbane, The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Melanie has a passion for writing and a love for gathering and creating memories with her family – especially while her kids are so young.

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