Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 13th August 2017
Go see if: You want an emotional and cerebral response
Stay away if: You want things explained
With mesmerising, multi-layered visual technology, but simplistic in set, Gandini Juggling successfully explore where two rhythmical practises meet: Juggling and Bharatanatyam dance. Their new show Sigma is total theatre with careful, explicit artistic exploration of costume, set, lighting, sound, technology, spoken word, dance and juggling.
It has a dark mechanical edge to the style: stark staging and cool grey, multi-layered costumes – including face covers – precise and mathematical movements… all which give a traditionally masculine edge to the all female performance. Even when the performers speak directly to the audience, it is assertive, factual and when playing with thoughts and hopes they talk of machines and philosophical concepts, maths and geometry. Explicitly delivered in ‘parts’, the dynamics are created though rhythm, pace, colour and interactions. The relationships in the piece are oddly deadpan but add to the surreal aesthetics it delivers. Whilst complex, technical and cerebral it is undeniably entertaining, fascinating and beautiful.
Seeta Patel and Indu Panday are the Bharatanatyam dance experts that layer, compare, integrate, interrogate and assimilate the patterns and pathways that exist between them and jugglers Kati Ylä-Hokkala and Kim Huynh. There is play with the ‘fourth wall’ of the theatre, with the performers sometimes addressing us factually and dead pan, yet the use of mirrors toy with our ability to perceive the full action on stage; the piece ends with us staring at our own selves.
Some of the choices that can be considered political emerged through chance and rehearsal rather than initial conception. The all-female cast was just because a guy dropped out; the face covering was a suggestion from the costume designer… yet the fact that they are perceived as political now leads back to an age old question of who is more correct; the original intention of the artist or the perception of the audience.
Perhaps this debate is also very telling about our current political and social climate. The fact that it is an all-female cast – and that that seems like a statement rather than just a choice – must suggest that we are not fully there yet in our recognition of gender in relation to skills in other genres of performance or industries. The face covering and inclusion of direct spoken word about their birth places, including that of their parents, brings to mind the current debates over freedom of movement, refugees, cultural values and how migration between ideas and people can create something so amazing.
This piece sparks many conversations, questions and ideas whilst still giving space to applaud the true skill and artistic merit of these performers. If anything were to happen that meant any of these ladies couldn’t perform they could not be replaced by anyone. The skill level and intricacies of the show are that high.
This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical languages around circus arts.