Over the past 30 years, stage and life partners Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala have created company shows where juggling transcends its traditional format to reflect their interest in, for example, ballet (4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures), the unique world of the German choreographer Pina Bausch (Smashed), and the specificity of the pioneering American contemporary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (Life: a Love Letter to Merce Cunningham).
The Games We Play is an altogether different animal. Much smaller and informal than previous shows, its format is that of an illustrated lecture. Gandini and Ylä-Hokkala, take juggling itself as their subject, describing and demonstrating some of its processes to illustrate what they call its borderline place between cerebral and physical.
Sean Gandini is a noted mathematician, but he knows better than to bombard the audience with the figures and equations that in so many ways determine the tempi and geometries of juggling, but are not hugely accessible to many people.
An enthusiastic and engaging speaker with a wide range of interests, he opts instead for talking about colour and music and the ways in which his idea of juggling mirrors other arts. So, for example, he compares a cascade of three balls – green, red, yellow – juggled by Kati as he speaks, to a Hockney painting, and its rhythm – one, two, three – to a waltz.
By contrast, juggling four balls, known as a fountain, he compares to a Bridget Riley painting and its rhythm – one, two, three, four – to rock and roll.
And so on. A ball dropped – an inevitability, no matter how good the juggler is – he chooses to call a Jackson Pollock.
The stage is bare, the only props two foldable tables and lots of coloured balls, the whole unobtrusively lit by their usual collaborator Guy Hoare.
He recalls some of the most marked figures from the history of juggling. Bhutan monks, whose juggling fits deep into Eastern philosophy, give way to Enrico Rastrelli, a noted early 20th-century juggler; more are recalled.
There are interludes where they juggle together in ever more intricate patterns of crossed arms and balls flying smoothly, hypnotically even, between the two of them as they dance across the stage.
A couple of gimmicks seem a little pointless, like when Kati changes into a bright yellow chicken costume for a mercifully short period before reverting to their dark jeans and T-shirt uniform.
Experienced performers and impeccable professionals that they are, Sean Gandini and Kati Ylö-Hokkala make The Games We Play entertaining and discreetly educational, a show that just about sustains its hour or so’s duration and is a good fit for the London International Mime Festival with its ever-widening remit to present the kind of physical theatre that cannot easily be pigeonholed.
Age Guidance: 14+ (contains partial nudity)
|What||The Games We Play, Gandini Juggling review|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston (underground)|
20 Jan 23 – 21 Jan 23, 19:30 Dur.: 50 mins approx no interval
|Price||£18 (concessions £14)|
|Website||Click here to book|