‘Gibbon’, by Chris Patfield and José Triguero, co-produced by Gandini Juggling

This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical practice around circus arts.

Review from: Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 12th August 2018

We enter the room to see two people posing as though for a portrait, one sat on a chair (Jose Triguero) and the other stood behind (Chris Patfield). They stay there for an uncomfortably long time, awkwardly glancing at each other and the audience, until Patfield moves away to reveal that he isn’t wearing any trousers. This sets up the laidback way in which the performers interact, as we are presented with the illusion of a casual rehearsal, where they walk through sequences using an amusing commentary of observations such as ‘your head is like a massive ball’ and ‘you look like a teapot’. This means that, when we then see the same sequence executed perfectly, we have had a chance to process what they are doing and are able to appreciate the skill where it otherwise could have been lost in the complex choreography. Accompanied by simple soundscapes and repetitive beats, it is hypnotic to watch these two performers negotiate the space of a small square, passing white balls through and around a blur of limbs with grace and precision.

They play with the audience’s expectations using sudden switches, unusual transitions and intentional drops that challenge notions of success and failure. The soundtrack, created by Benji Bouton and Kevin Toublant of MadMadMad, supports the images created by their bodies, with sounds of nature setting the scene to facilitate their animalistic physicality. The tricks are timed perfectly to the sounds, which emphasises the satisfying detail in their clever catches and subtle head turns. The sharp breaks in the music indicate a switch, as they go from performance mode to casually chatting about what is happening, making funny remarks to give the audience insight.

At the heart of the success of this piece is the relationship between the two performers, overseen in creation by Flick Ferdinando’s outside eye. It is refreshing to see physical intimacy between two men normalised, challenging constructs around masculinity and vulnerability. They are playfully competitive and incredibly relatable as they bicker, tease, sulk and snigger their way through the show. The extent of their physical research is evident, as they effortlessly present a range of different five ball patterns, moving in and out of sync with ease. They explore clever uses of symmetry and negative space to create almost kaleidoscopic images of bodies and props.

At the end of the piece, they pass a towel between them and mop away their sweat while reflecting on the performance. ‘That was intense’ one says and they consider together whether maybe they should have ‘less juggling and more lions’. It is a pleasure to watch this skilful duo deconstruct their performance in front of us and the combination of mesmerising manipulation and dry comedy left me wanting more.


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