Category Archives: Juggling

Water on Mars, Gandini Juggling at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

This evening I’ve just seen Gandini Juggling’s new show Water on Mars at Assembly Roxy as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. It is the third piece of theirs that I’ve seen; two years ago there was their wonderful, Pina Bausch themed Smashed. Last year I saw 4×4 Ephemeral Architectures which brought together jugglers with ballet dancers. Both pieces had quite large casts, but this year’s show is for three young energetic men and seems to me not to have a theme but just to be straight, unbelievably virtuoso juggling.

The individual sequences are cleverly put together to make great theatre. The three jugglers – Wes Peden, Tony Pezzo & Patrik Elmnert – can do extraordinary, literally incredible things but start small, gradually drawing us in the audience in to the show and making us look more closely at what they’re doing and then building up more and more complicated sequences. They use clubs, then they use balls, hoops, clubs that magically attach together end-to-end then disconnect again to become single clubs. Then weird combinations of clubs stuck together with sellotape, and even toilet rolls, and bags of toffees.

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I’m not a circus insider, but once spent a few days at the Circus Space in London with a choreographer who was making a show on some students there. Always at the back of studio a few, who were not actually involved in the particular bit being rehearsed, would be practicing juggling, their attempts punctuated by noisy crashes as all their clubs hit the floor. What’s so magical about watching Gandini Juggling is that everything works perfectly, nothing is dropped unless it is intended. I guess juggling is so demanding because there’s no room for error. But perfection can be static, and subject to the laws of diminishing returns. It is the way Gandini Juggling deal with this which makes their shows so interesting.

Two things usually strike me about their shows. First, the subtle patterns in the sequences that the jugglers make. In a sequence where an arc of clubs are rising to medium height in a regular pulse, and suddenly each man makes his club soar up much higher in perfect unison; or with balls, they alternately each throw one ball up and as it comes down throw up two in its place.

The second thing is the way the shows try to make us look at juggling differently, as if we’ve never looked at it properly before. In all the Gandini shows I’ve seen there are sequences where three people stand so close together that they all seem to be juggling the same balls in one single arc, reaching or snatching through each other’s arms to keep the balls going. One person almost with six hands and three faces.

Another extraordinary sequence has one man holding a big down transparent plastic storage box upside in front of another who juggles balls up into it, bouncing them inside off the top or sides. An ordinary, household object that one would never have thought of using in this kind of way.

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The final sequence gets wilder and more energetic – they’re young and bursting with energy. In it they seem to break all the rules, deliberately knocking one another so that they drop their clubs; throwing so many hoops in the air that they can possibly catch them. Then there’s the toilet rolls, some of which they end up throwing into the audience, then they juggle with open, half litre bottles of spring water so that each leaves a trail of water in the air that shines momentarily in the lighting. One crazy thing after another in quick succession, faster and crazier rushing headlong to end in a satisfyingly wild frenzy.

Then, as we file out, there are the jugglers and stage crew hard at it clearing up the mess and mopping the floor because another show is scheduled shortly. I’m full of admiration, amazement, and exhaustion.