Avant-garde juggling upsets the apple cart
This article is from 2013.
The opening minutes of Smashed seem, at first, to set the tone for what’s about to follow: a very polished, über-sophisticated display of debonair juggling – in a string of complicated, gracefully choreographed configurations.
The Gandini Juggling ensemble dress in smart suits and cocktail dresses and specialise in what it calls ‘virtuoso juggling’. Even with eyes closed, during a flawlessly synchronised Mexican wave, or with several performers interlocking tango dance legs and arms while they throw and catch, no one ever drops the ball – or the apple in their case.
Little vignettes – flirty men trying to distract a coy girl from her apple juggling for example – display the London company’s jaw-dropping skills in what, on the surface, is a polite, neatly groomed production. It’s only when the two females start crawling on all fours before the men, with apples in their mouths, to the tune of ‘Stand By Your Man’, that the show’s demure façade begins to slip, and things get more interesting.
Inspired by the work of German-born dancer/ choreographer Pina Bausch, Smashed pushes juggling past the boundaries of straightforward circus show-offery into something altogether darker and funnier. Humiliation, romance, gender politics, relationship dynamics and, er, tea drinking are all explored with an unexpected, and impish sense of humour, and the show’s satisfying unravelling into puréed apple and broken crockery chaos is as impressive as the juggling itself.
A forced-eccentric interlude of dialogue about tea in the middle seems unnecessary; it’s the wordless apple chucking, fancy moves and subtle facial storytelling that really does the talking.
Smashed, Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 26 Aug (not 13), 6.05pm, £12–£14 (£11–£13).