Gandini Juggling: The Games We Play – London International Mime Festival – The Place

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Director: Sean Gandini and Kati Yiä-Hokkala

After such a strong opening week, it seems a crying shame that this is the last year of the long-running London International Mime Festival. Circus company Gandini Juggling have been an integral part of the festival since 1994 and fittingly there is a note of finality about their latest show which combines a history of juggling with some cerebral demonstrations of the art form.

At last year’s festival, the company juggled to the complex choreography of Merce Cunningham. This year’s production is less daring and, in featuring just the company’s founders Sean Gandini and Kati Yiä- Hokkala, more stripped back. There is still an element of dance, but there are also allusions to paintings. Juggling with three coloured balls could, Gandini suggests, remind one of a bright David Hockney canvas while introducing a fourth ball could represent a busy but precise Bridget Riley. However, dropped balls – and there are impressively few tonight – could, with their coloured splatter, be compared to a Jackson Pollock.

At one point Yiä- Hokkala juggles with no balls and Gandini jokes that those who have never been to the Mime Festival must imagine that a show would look like this. All Marcel Marceau and nothing else. However, over the years the festival’s directors Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig have proved that mime’s focus on visual theatre extends much further than silent gestures from people whose faces are painted white.

Gandini Juggling usually begin their shows by explaining the secrets behind the various techniques but the focus on colour makes this preamble a little different. All the balls they use in The Games We Play, a piece commissioned by the festival, are bright pinks, blues, greens and whites whether Gandini and Yiä- Hokkala move them across a white trestle table or whether they pass them to each other while dancing a tango to a Parisian tune. Interspersed in the routines are moments of clowning, but often these come across as awkward time-fillers.

More successful are the history lessons and you can’t help but wish Gandini had brought along a PowerPoint presentation replete with images of the juggling pig and the three-armed juggler that he discusses and the snippets of the film that exists of the female performer who was rumoured to have once juggled ten balls simultaneously.

Running for just under an hour, Gandini Juggling astound with their sharp moves and yet The Games We Play is darker that its name implies. The melancholy that runs through the piece means that this circus isn’t for children. At one point Gandini confesses that his shows, including this one, often contain some gratuitous nudity to ensure that parents are discouraged to bring their infants. And one scene towards the end is definitely upsetting.

With their quirky humour and geeky approach we can only hope that Gandini Juggling return to Britain in the future despite LIMF coming to and end. Januarys and Februarys will be very bleak without them.

Runs to 21 January 2023

London International Mime Festival website here

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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