Keeping clubs up. In the far-future, super-evolved world that is French circus there's been a movement toward fragmentation of different skills, with each group of practitioners focusing in on their subgenre to try and discover and work with the essence of its technique, and of all the disciplines juggling has travelled furthest – to the point that some think it should be treated as a separate artform in its own right. Wherever you come down on that particular issue, there’s no doubt that juggling is today an extremely rich practice technically and artistically, with its own notation, many experiments on the absolute fringes of the discipline, and a slew of specialised festivals and conventions.
'I think the show started off quite innocent, and that, even though it had dark undertones from the beginning, it got progressively darker and darker. I'd been sending them these e-mails about Clockwork Orange, and we'd had this discussion of whether it should be the boys spraying Doreen with paint. I liked the idea that I could put them in white boilersuits and it would be quite violent, but it wound up being the two girls that did the scene and it ended up, in a way, being quite beautiful as she got absolutely drenched in this black paint.'
Gemma Banks on her work designing the costumes for Gandini Juggling's Blotched.
The company, eleven of them this time, thread through the crowd. Sean Gandini comes close and rustles past looking like a piñata, his voluminous, papery coat and trousers layered pink, purple, yellow and orange, with a turquoise band settled at the waist as the cummerbund of this evening's attire.
At the start of Motet there are juggling balls of all sizes and colours lying on the stage, and it's very dark. Sakari Männistö, wearing voluminous, brocaded trousers, treads daintily among them, moving from one edge to another, staring out and not in, waiting for something perhaps.
Two characters, a man and a woman, are undergoing a rehabilitative process, alone except for the ambient voice of a calm, insistent psychiatrist. The man remembers a terrible accident, and struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide; the woman's memory slides away whenever she comes close to its pivotal moment.
For all that Jay Gilligan stands by the door and greets each audience member as they enter, Objectify isn't inviting work – it's uncaringly individualistic, highly and minutely developed, and intellectual in that way that is perhaps a little impatient with your ability to keep up.
As the audience files into the chapiteau, Compagnie Ea Eo are seated at the front of the stage: four young men, dressed casually, slouching a little, watching the influx of people as if from a park bench – as if it all has nothing to do with them.
'I think the Pina Bausch thing ended up being stronger than we imagined—in my mind it was lightly inspired by Pina Bausch and it came out strong. I'd say it's only recently that her influence has come in. I'd say that maybe our early work was closer to our other hero, Merce Cunningham. Maybe NightClubs was a little bit more related to Merce's work and mathematics and complex space and all of that, and certainly all our early work was working with complex spatial arrangements. With Pina actually it's terrifying when you see her work because you just realise how much everyone's got out of it. Kontakthof and Café Müller are extraordinary and beautiful works. They hover at the back of your brain those pieces...'
Sideshow talks to Sean Gandini about Smashed!, the commission piece from Gandini Juggling's 2010 Watch This Space residency, and a work of beautiful destruction and perversity.
There's a disorienting scene in Mue where a woman with a mask on the back of her head—a mask with shoulder-length hair that obscures her ordinary face—climbs a rope, straddles and inverts and turns.
Mental illness is vivid and also soulful. The soundtrack of mental illness is turntable scratching or bass-heavy dance music. Obsessive compulsive disorder manifests principally in outbreaks of pop n lock. Jumping off a building (onto a crashmat, with back layouts) may be the best cure for schizophrenia.
The programme for Migrations has as its centrefold a timeline of the history of diaspora, starting with the Phoenicians in Lebanon (c. -3000 BC), tracking the movements of the Huns, the Magyars and the imperialist British, and ending in 2007 with the arrival at Circus Space of the recently graduated degree students who are onstage tonight.
Ah, circus theatre! The age-old dilemma of how to combine two opposing forces: the drive from ‘theatre’ to present characters telling stories that reach us through memory and imagination (evoking ‘there’ and ‘then’), and the drive from ‘circus’ to be in the here and now.
Within the first ten minutes two audience members have been pulled up on stage—Tom, who’s busy peddling the bike that provides the theatre’s electricity, and Saga, nervous and clutching a handbag, who’s philosophically brutalised by the ringmasterish whiteface.
Held in the Astroturf square outside the National Theatre where it was almost magically cursed by bad weather, I’m not sure how much of Watch This Space’s third week was either cancelled or abbreviated—but the days I was there the Gandinis (jugglers in residence) seemed like the perfect company to take the problems in their stride.
The concept for this year’s Circomedia showcase is a reality show where audience votes are disregarded, circus performers competing for stage time while behind the scenes an embittered cleaner looks to ruin the show.