Peacock Theatre London

31st May 2024

Stuart Sweeney

Gandini Juggling, founded in 1992 by Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä- Hokkala has established a unique slot in the dance/circus spectrum. Their humorous, clever explorations have brought delight to audiences around the world. Smashed has been around for 15 years but is well worth its revival.

Gandini Juggling, Smashed
Photo: Claudine Quinn

Inspired by the death of Pina Bausch, Smashed pays homage to this giant of Tanztheater. Looking through the Bausch back catalogue, I can see references to Kontacthof: men in suits and ties, oppressing women, wanting to engage in carnal pleasures both conventional and unconventional. 100 apples feature prominently and lo and behold, one of the images from Kontacthof shows a woman eating an apple.

When we enter the theatre, we see nine chairs in a line with seven rows of apples at right angles, everything orderly and precise – it won’t last. The artists enter and parade back and forth across the front of the stage, juggling three apples in a variety of styles in perfect unison and smiling while we hear the gentle whimsy of the war time song, by Little Jack Little, I always wanted to waltz in Berlin.

Gandini Juggling, Smashed
Photo: Claudine Quinn

A series of scenes feature the performers either seated or walking about, sometimes drinking from teacups, set to a soundtrack featuring popular songs from Tammy Wynette and The Ink Spots to classics from Bach and others. Some of the trickiest juggling comes with groups swapping apples in complex arm patterns. When the women come forward to show their skills, several men come and disrupt their performance, echoing Pina Bausch’s concerns.

One of the men is an outsider, not wearing a suit. From time to time, he enjoys break dancing, but is sometimes excluded from the ensemble work. In one of the most amusing sections, one by one the men come forward and, while juggling, the women smack them, cheeks for one, neck for another and finally on the bottom of a man with dropped trousers. The outsider in invited to take his turn with the slapping, but nervously smiling, waves his hands in rejection.

A change sees one of the men doing tricks with a tube, but when the others step forward to juggle apples, he dashes around waving his tube and apples begin to drop. When the errant man tries to take his seat, he finds another has moved into his place and this is repeated amusingly down the line.

And then chaos takes over. Juggling multiple apples and teacups are disturbed and smash on the ground to the delight of the cast. With the stage strewn with debris, we return to the opening, and I always wanted to waltz in Berlin. But now, bites are taken from the apples as they are juggled, and a final man is juggling bits of apples while munching on a mouthful.

I smiled the whole way, breaking into laughter many times. Smashed is a delight and the dexterous, witty cast deserve much credit alongside the creators, Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä- Hokkala.

Cast: Sean Gandini, Tedros Girmaye, Kim Huynh, Antek Klemm, Sakari Männistö, Iñaki Sastre, Malte Steimetz, Jose Triguero, Kati Ylä-Hokkala