N&N Festival, Smashed review: Bold performance reveals the dark side of the circus

Smashed was performed by Gandini Juggling at Norwich Playhouse last night as part of the Norfolk and

Smashed was performed by Gandini Juggling at Norwich Playhouse last night as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2019. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

For the second year in a row, Gandini Juggling took to the stage to perform Smashed at Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2019.

I lost all sense of time as I watched Gandini Juggling perform last night.

The hour-long show, to a sold-out audience, was as bold as you could imagine it to be - with nine performers, 80 red apples, four sets of crockery and an uncomfortable depiction of warped sexual politics.

Joyous is a word which best describes the beginning of the show, which sees the nine performers saunter in single file across the apple-lined stage to Little Jack Little's I've Always Wanted To Waltz In Berlin. The patterns and rhythms create a dizzying, dazzling display and the wry smiles and comedic body language of the performers almost lull you into a false sense of security - until one performer drops a single apple. Raucous laughter follows - the performers are not, it seems, all in it together as they reveal the dark side of the circus.

From that point on, the atmosphere becomes increasingly uncomfortable. The two female performers are repeatedly circled by their male counterparts, taken advantage of as they lower themselves - quite literally - to subservient roles. At one point they even drop to their knees, reduced to mere props, but as the apples still rise, then fall, in mesmerising sequence, it's difficult to know which demands more of your attention.

The rest of the show takes on a life of its own and although the sequences are still very musical, executed with detailed precision, the humour is gone. The show ends with total anarchy on stage - plates broken, chairs overturned and the apples, by the end, viciously devoured in one last, synchronised hurrah.

The show certainly defies expectations for an audience who gasps, laughs and winces in equal measure. Smashed, it would appear, lives up to its name.

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