Gandini Juggling’s Smashed, inspired by the work of Pina Bausch, involves 22 performers negotiating dozens of apples, chairs and a chintzy tea set with awesome élan. Beyond the dazzling circus spectacle, however, there’s satire – like all the best apples, this has bite.
To the nostalgic sounds of jazzy 1940s tunes, the Gandinis begin with deceptive coyness, each casually juggling three apples in tandem and adding embellishments – an extended arm, a higher throw – with perfect timing. Each vignette contains thrilling feats of dexterity and skill. A courting display sees various males in ludicrous peacocking poses, smoothing down eyebrows or thrusting around like Mick Jagger, but the baroque soundtrack is eventually matched by the profound physical harmony of a couple juggling with intricately interlinking arms.
Bausch’s influence is apparent in the work’s exploration of the uncomfortable, often brutal, relations between the sexes. No fruit could be more fitting for this purpose than the apple, the ultimate symbol of female sin. They’re shoved in the mouths of two women who crawl steadily across the stage while the men’s hands scrabble feverishly across their backs, undertaking important imagined tasks.
Although originally performed in 2010, this new version of Smashed has a palpable sense of political timeliness. Careful craft descends into chaos, artistic discipline gives way to an unhinged destructive energy. Apples are gnawed on and queasily regurgitated. There’s a lot of smashing. It’s like the vicious anti-expertise sentiment of our time made into a crockery-strewn stage picture, punctuated by malicious little cackles. Outstanding.