Take the grace of a world class ballet troupe, the precision of a gold medal winning gymnastic team and the harmony of a group of synchronised swimmers. Give those attributes to nine people, place them centre stage in the Theatre Royal and the resulting creation is called Smashed by Gandini Juggling.
From the moment the performers (to just refer to them as jugglers would be an insult) appear on stage and execute a perfectly timed, superbly choreographed and truly mesmerising juggling routine, the audience are in no doubt that there are about to witness something very special.
The seven men and two women in the troupe “dance” from one side of the stage to the other, while juggling three apples each and then quickly whip round to the beginning to present, what seems like, an endless line of jugglers. Each movement is timed to perfection, each step flawlessly placed and each apple, as these jugglers seem to prefer this as a suitable alternative to the more usual ball, is thrown and caught perfectly.
Each routine, and there are many of them, is slightly more complex than the last but all have a comic element running through them. Sometimes the comedy is simply brought about by the choice of movements, sometimes it is more deliberate, and sometimes it’s pure slapstick, but always it is very entertaining.
The complexity of some of the routines, when you may have five or six of the jugglers “helping” to juggle just three apples in breathtaking as they slip in and out of the action with consummate ease and, at no point, is the movement of the apples impaired. The overall impression given by these complex routines is one of a well oiled machine, or a precision timepiece, where all the actions are connected, but all the pieces are individual.
The musical accompaniment is also chosen well, with an eclectic mix which includes Tammy Wynette, singing Stand By Your Man, as the women allow the men to use their bodies as juggling platforms and I’m Sorry, by Brenda Lee, accompanying a routine in which Kati Yla-Hokkala shows how to juggle and slap your colleagues at the same time.
Both Yla-Hokkala and Kim Huynh dance beautifully, having had gymnastic and ballet training before joining the Gandini troupe but, credit should also be given to the guys who all move well. The humour is also, to a point, choreographed with one guy, Jon Udry, pulling focus and getting the best of the “punchlines”. Most of those punchlines are visual, but Udry does also speak the, very few, words that are in the show.
Sean Gandini has handpicked a group of the most supremely talented British and European jugglers and, for a little over an hour, this group managed to hold not only apples, but also the capacity audience, in the palm of their hands.