If juggling brings to mind struggling street performers or the circus,Smashed will change that and leave you entertained, impressed, perplexed and unable to simply and mundanely … eat an apple anymore. Premiered at the National Theatre’s Watch this Space Festival in 2010, it is an hour-long piece involving 9 jugglers, 80 apples and 4 crockery sets; a mix of circus and theatre inspired by the work of Pina Bausch.
Smashed opens and closes with a very Bauschian parade to a suitably crackly recording of “I’ve Always Wanted to Dance in Berlin”. The nine performers walk along the stage with simple crossing steps, casually juggling apples through the air in flawless synchrony. Dressed formally, in suits and frocks with perfectly coiffed hair, and sassy looks fixed on the audience. Director Sean Gandini and Kati Yäla-Hokkala have borrowed elements of Bausch’s gestural choreography and have combined them with intricate patterns of solo and ensemble juggling, as the information packet very accurately explains. The performers – it would be simplistic to call them just jugglers – waltz with, around and between each other; limbs intertwine and an endless supply of apples is juggled and brutalised throughout the performance.
As in Tanztheater, Smashed does not tell a story, at least not in any conventional way, but it rather reminds us of sensations, experiences and memories; a mixture of tender emotion, slapstick humour and surrealism. With a soundtrack ranging from Tammy Wynette, to Louis Armstrong, to Bach and Vivaldi the performers of Smashed create vignettes with each song that explore sexual tension, gender politics and social constructs with humour and impressive synchronisation. Just let your imagination carry you. Mine was enjoying carefree walks by the sea, drinking in speakeasies and expereincing the American South, watching playground fights and “desperate housewives” trying to put up with the eternal Peter Pans around them.
Once again the Udderbelly festival delivers pure entertainment with aesthetics and brains. Do not pass up the opportunity to check what else the supine purple cow has on offer, and if the unpredictable British weather allows it, enjoy a cold PIMM’S in the pasture!