At The Halls, Sunday 15 May 2022
The stage is set for Gandini juggling , one of the early events of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival at St Andrew’s Hall. A mixed audience, clearly attracting all ages for this skilful, clever and entertaining juggling act like no other. It’s a return visit to Norwich as they performed Smashed at Norwich Playhouse, with a full range of vintage crockery - which was, well, smashed by the end of the show
This is Smashed 2, the followup, which has toured around the world before landing in Norwich. It is set to be more fruity than Smashed, and I am predicting a bit of a smoothie mashup by the end, if the last show anything to go by.
The scene tonight is set with a stage full of chairs and fruit. Oranges and melons dotted around the floor and 9 chairs give a flavour of what is to come. More accustomed to classical concerts, this 15th century Dominican friary hall is all dressed up with a huge lighting gantry bathing the steps and massive pipe organ in purple light.
As the jugglers came on stage, 7 women, bare limbs and dresses, and 2 men in suits and ties, strut across the stage with suggestive moves, eye contact with the audience as they juggle oranges in sequence, passing the fruit between them, over under and behind their heads and around their bodies in a perfectly synchronised and choreographed visual complexity revealing a combination of extreme dance and juggling skills combined with humour and fun - perfect for a Sunday evening. This is the first of several ‘sketches’ each with a different emphasis. that will make up the hour-long show. The music too, is carefully chosen to complement the largely silent sequences of tightly arranged moves, including a punk anthem and opera as well as popular classics.
There is a fair amount of sexual politics throughout the show from seduction to upskirting, explicit sexuality and sensuous touches though, as the men are outnumbered, they seem to come off worst and the women are triumphant in abusing the men quite severely it seems, without allowing the men much leeway. Throughout, the jugglers, male and female strive to disrupt and distract their fellows who keep going in spite of being man-handled and their routines disturbed. All takes place with good humour between them, as they carry on regardless.
Of course, oranges are easier to juggle than watermelons as you can imagine but a circle of women with the heavy fruit balanced on their bare feet rolled them about, not as niftily as the oranges but still an impressive feat - maybe this was the least successful sequence though as it also was hard for the audience to see.
There was also drama as well as humour. A gunfight uses red silk scarves to cover the stage with ‘bloody’ corpses with even the gun-person succumbing to death by red scarf. And darker still, the last sequence is a dramatic and relentless slow-motion death-scene played to an operatic sound track - the ‘beating up’ of one of the hapless men who finds himself on the floor surrounded by women whilst the remaining male turns up too late to save him from the grinning pack. Pretty violent. And very effective.
And yes, Smashed 2 - inevitably, it all started to break down as the previously organised and tightly sequenced jugglers went feral, squeezing and smashing fruit all over the stage. It started with a thumb inserted in a juicy and messy orange and broke down from there until there were watermelons and oranges musshed all over everything, including another beleagured man who lay spread-eagled and dominated by a melon-bearing megalomaniac torturess who threatened his most precious body parts.
Chaos reigned for the last five minutes until the stage was entirely covered with a sticky mess as predicted until the jugglers stood up together and took a 9-person, synchronised bow. Hoorah!
Looking forward to Smashed 3 already.
Author Marion Catlin
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