Review from: Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 23rd August 2018
Chris Patfield & José Triguero, two associate artists of Gandini Juggling, premiere Gibbon in the Blue Room outside the Assembly Rooms this August. Dressed in matching suits and straight faced, Patfield and Triguero start the show… and then stop. Subverting expectations, the stop-start form of the work – with breaks for blunt discussion between the performers about how it works, as it’s being watched – sets a premise for an atypical juggling show. A choreography of drops, straight vertical and horizontal pathways favoured over arcs, balls and body parts treated as objects in a dance ensemble rather than props to be thrown, all set this work apart as intriguing and unusual.
A phrase I call ‘swap, drop and vertical lines’, is followed by a face-to-face duet where the ball path rolls down the chest and is passed behind the head. This is built up with gestures, a chest bounce and passes behind the neck in a criss-crossing and swinging choreography, ending in a walk. The pair sign-post this section by pointing out the awkwardness of the walk and their ending position and move on. Other spoken annotations that emerge between them are the ‘lion’ section and ‘head as a ball’. Unaware of this verbal rubrication of movements, the audience’s pallet is being primed to recognise and appreciate patterns in the work when the reoccur – which they do, altogether in a fluid and immaculate routine. The work is completely deconstructed and put back together again in front of our eyes. Making a show of talking through each section – discussing choices, developments and marking accumulation of movements – is an element drawn from the rehearsal process and regurgitated in a choreography that is openly aware of its own making.
Patfield and Triguero have a relaxed and gentle style with a fierce concentration. As they move into close proximity, their balls becoming one cluster, they have a sense of préchac style similar to contact improvisation. This combination of fluid partner work, with the accuracy of place and timing, knit embodied movement with releases and catches of balls in an unusual but perfect coupling. This becomes clear in the ‘palms together’ section, with two balls in the mouth indicative of a formal ballroom phrase but with balls! The choreography of the ‘all elbows and heads’ section and the ball in the mouth section begin more as contemporary dance than juggling, and eventually turn into strange mating rituals where the motif is exaggerated into silliness.
There are two large sections of uninterrupted beautiful choreography. One that builds tension in a relentless drill of even beats, which is exciting and exhausting with side-to-side zigzag pathways and straight lines, angular journeys of balls and isolated high throws on an occasional accented note. The second is the grand finale, a culmination of all the deconstructed phrases put together. It is wonderful, and we know this because we recognise all the awkward moments and identify the patterns that we have been trained to notice throughout the show. Now they are presented with speed, fluency and ease. Even with our trained eyes, we can barely keep up!