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Smashed (Udderbelly)

Gandini Juggling return to the UK with their inventive mix of juggling, dance and storytelling

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Cast of Smashed
© Ludovic Des Cognets

We've all given it a go, but how many of us can actually juggle properly, let alone dance and act at the same time?

Gandini Juggling's Smashed offers a unique mix of juggling (using solely apples), clowning, dance and storytelling. Set to music (mainly popular wartime jazz, but also some classical pieces), the show is like a silent juggling film come to life as the company invite us to their tea party. Each highly skilled performer has individual character as they juggle apples and interact with one another in a mathematically precise display of complex routines inspired by the work of contemporary dancer Pina Bausch and here directed by Sean Gandini.

It all starts simply enough with basic techniques, but soon escalates into intricate sequences and balletic displays. The sheer effortlessness of the nine performers is hugely impressive. By the end of this crazy tea party, the show lives up to its name, leaving the stage a mass of pulp, pips, juice and smashed crockery, like some sort of depraved juggling orgy. With such edible props, though, the result was perhaps somewhat inevitable.

This is high pressure theatre where any mistakes are immediately apparent – cynics in the audience may be waiting for that first drop. Yet there's a great sense of camaraderie between the performers as they work together tightly as a team, before laughing and jeering at one another, purposefully putting each other off. Above all, the show is comedy entertainment filled with cheeky slapstick humour that often revolves around sexual politics: the performers show off to one another with a glint in their eye, dance around in amusing fashion, hit each other with sticks between some tricky juggling, lay apples like eggs and even spank each other. It's this goofy comedy that lends the show a distinct European flavour and maintains a consistent level of humour from start to finish.

Originally formed in 1992, Gandini Juggling have performed across the world and are now performing Smashed at the Udderbelly Festival, Southbank. It's a hugely enjoyable and creative piece of circus theatre that really is fun for all the family. Who knew juggling a few apples could be so entertaining?