‘Tangram’, by Cristiana Casadio and Stefan Sing

Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 16th August 2013

tangramStefan Sing is a world class juggler.  Cristiana Casadio is a classically trained ballerina and rhythmic gymnast.  In the beautifully crafted ‘Tangram’, presented by Aurora Nova, their exquisite skills meet, clash and dance around each other in the best representation of a relationship’s course that I’ve ever seen staged.

The pair struggle to know each other, whilst fighting to retain their own individual identities; from the first surprise encounter, through love and heartbreak, they navigate each other’s souls in a world peppered with white juggling balls and lithe limbed expression.

Sing has a lovely open connection with the audience, and his functional movements contrast well with Casadio’s flighty extravagance; I am so taken with the visual story of their evolving relationship that I almost forget to be awed by their individual technical brilliance – attesting to the superb artistic direction of the piece.  As the pair pass through heart-wrenchingly recognisable phases of a relationship, I’m willing it to end happily, for all our sakes.

The cosy black-box space in the Pleasance King Dome allows us access to every nuance of expression, and the wonderfully scored sounds of feet, hands and juggling balls slapping together and against the floor.  I particularly enjoy the way the two play with synchronicity and distorted reflection of each other in their attempts to draw closer to one another.

As they find themselves in each other’s worlds, Casadio’s body becomes an object for manipulation, and the white balls become a way for her to physically explore the space.  To a well-timed musical accompaniment from Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game‘, they begin to exert their influence over each other’s territory, creating tensions and conflict.  A wonderful strangling image sees Casanio hang one-armed around Sing’s neck.

tangramfotoandreamacchia1-lst118041A new phase in the relationship is signalled by bird-song and avian movements, with the destruction of the central dividing line which has marked the space into two distinct halves until now.  Sing moves into joyful 3-ball patterns, from his previous single and duo ball manipulations (which were a joy in themselves – his ability to maintain an hour of complicated and varied juggling routines throughout the piece is incredible).

Through further twists and turns, the compelling relationship continues.  The small audience are warmed into gentle snorts of humour and ‘smiling out loud’, as well as tears and held breaths.  There are 5- and 6-ball cascades, and the pair knowingly tease again and again with the possibility of a 7.  As the real-life couple take their bows, they rouse a passionate vocal second curtain call – no small feat amongst a tiny audience of 18 at a British festival, but no less than they deserve.

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