Directors: Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala, artistic directors of Gandini Juggling, set out to prove that juggling can be an art form in its own right. This is not easy-most of us would regard juggling as a party trick or, at best, part of a wider form of entertainment like circus.
It is clear from the opening of the current production 8 Songs that the Company are willing to bring in elements of theatre and dance as well as juggling. It is also apparent that they do not take themselves seriously and are here to have fun. The six members of the troupe enter carrying one of the company aloft who, dominatrix-style, tells the audience that she is ‘The Queen of Rock’n’Roll’. Apparently convinced that the audience are not showing her the requisite respect due to her strong accent she insists that one of her companions translate the message; which she does in a dull bored tone. It is an opening that sets the scene for a production full of surprises.
The format for 8 Songs is simple- the company juggle to a recorded backing of classic rock songs and then recite the song lyrics (without music) while doing a different routine. The latter part of the show is striking and can be comedic or dramatic. Brian Wilson’s ecstatic lyrics to Good Vibrations are translated into a flat, deadpan, Germanic dirge. The lyrics to Sunday Morning are babbled out in a glassy-eyed panic which is exactly right as Lou Reed was writing about paranoia. There is a charming attempt to give a literal, visual interpretation of the lyrics to Dylan’s I Want You.
Considering the limitations of juggling the troupe achieve variety with subtlety. You can’t miss that the dance to Summertime is performed while juggling a series of basketballs but it takes a moment or two to notice that, during Sunday Morning, the Company are juggling using just one hand. The sudden appearance of different coloured ball rolling around a juggler’s body or a swirling ribbon brings a note of celebration.
8 Songs is restless vibrant show in which the troupe switch from solos to duets to full company pieces and between straightforward juggling to a mixture of juggling and dance with a casual ease. The enthusiasm of the troupe is infectious and irresistible and the show serves as a tribute to the passion and energy of rock ’n’ roll from the blazing opening of Good Vibrations through to the closing piece of the troupe gradually being seduced by the tinny sound of Highway to Hell leaking from a pair of headphones.
At less than an hour 8 Songs does not overstay its welcome but is long enough to make the case that Juggling is an underrated performance art and is a charming show that is an absolute pleasure to watch.
Reviewed on 2nd December 2017 | Image: Alice Allart