The ambitious new production of Smashed: Special Edition, by Gandini Juggling, is an epic narrative realised through the most intricate movements. At times slapstick, coy and whimsical, it is also moving and provocative. This show is a delicate balance of volume and detail. The sheer number of performers, each showcasing an individual, theatrical personality, is unified by the harmony of their choreographed juggling.
The heart of this production is the controlled chaos of life and our relationships with others. Each performer showcases both consummate skill and tongue-in-cheek improvisation. This performance engages with the difficult question of an individual’s place within the group. The complex phraseology of this juggling act, accompanied by live music, slowly breaks down, relating a story of gradually relinquishing the illusion of control.
This performance presents both the careful construction of a juggling routine, through the increasingly complex movements of the performers’ parade, and its steady destruction. Mezzo-soprano Emma Carrington’s singing, with live music from Camerata Alma Viva, lends extra depth to the lyrical movements of the performers, at first in tune with her voice, then, increasingly moving in a counterpoint which creates a stark contrast between the harmony of the music and the increasing abandon of the choreography.
This is a performance that both engages and challenges the audience. Smashed is microcosm of society, encompassing the interplay of social relations, expectations and isolation. In a scene that stands out for its creative, gentle beauty, Charles Aznavour’s ‘What makes a man, a man’, is set in motion by a sophisticated dance performance that suggests the explosive power of art to express the pain and hope of our modern lives and loves.
The lighting is expertly and innovatively controlled, lending a baroque elegance to the wide stage of the Peacock. This solemnity in the production of the performance is both embraced and defied by the cast, at times directly confronting the audience, at others completely absorbed in the narrative they construct. This production is a labour of love, inspired by the work of Pina Bausch. In its dialogue with her work it raises the question of the influence of one art form upon another. Smashed is a collaboration of juggling and theatre which offers a radical revaluation of our perceptions of ‘genuine’ art.
Smashed offers an evening of good music and great fun that will appeal to all. But the beauty of this performance, and of the contemporary visual theatre offered by the London International Mime Festival, is that it offers each member of the audience the space to create their own interpretation of the performance. Smashed is a reflection of ourselves, our most familiar motions are rendered strange through their innovative repetition and reorganisation into intricate patterns. Each individual will take away the piece of this performance that resonates most with their own experience.