Twenty Twenty

Directed by Sean Gandini
Gandini Juggling
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Twenty Twenty Credit: Gandini Juggling
Twenty Twenty Credit: Gandini Juggling
Twenty Twenty Credit: Gandini Juggling

If you have never seen a Gandini Juggling show, this video, which they put online last month, is a great opportunity to sample their work. If you are already a fan, it is a rare treat to see a work that not many got the chance to for it was given only seven performances divided between the National Theatre’s Watch This Space and The Fours à chaux du Rey de Regnéville-sur-Mer in France.

It was created to mark the company’s 20th anniversary in 2012 and appropriately features 20 performers—one reason why it couldn’t be a regular item in their repertoire, though since then they have made other shows with as many.

Twenty Twenty was apparently created over just two weeks, combining some pre-existing with new work: a remarkable achievement that shows how well these accomplished artists work together. Lasting for 50 minutes, it is non-stop for the company are kept busy even during a couple of punctuating blackouts, and that is 50 minutes when the audience is rapt in attention even though there is no obvious narrative.

This isn’t just dexterity and timing; it is fused with dance, changes of pace and of atmosphere, humour, sometimes a solo or a duet emerges from the group to display particular artistry, there’s a moment when a girl in one cast flings five balls over her head to land precisely in the hands of five men in a spaced-out line behind her, sometimes the air seems full of spinning dumbbells each precisely reaching the colleague across the stage for whom it is meant.

Small white balls, coloured balls, red exercise balls, dumbbells, they seem always airborne; and then there are balls and dumbbells that light up. They go on and off in patterns to match Ian Marchant’s sound mix with its varying musical rhythms, spoken passages and bursts of classical orchestral sound.

These must be regimented in their order to achieve such precision, but the effect is of release, of great freedom. Their complexity is joyous. It is amazing that they can achieve such complexity as scores of objects hurtle through the air without crashing.

This is a gripping display of skill and concentration that demands perfect judgement, precise timing, and all performers' interdependence on the abilities of others. But the effect is something much more. It looks beautiful as well as being exciting.

Watching Twenty Twenty once may not be enough—and you can find more recent Gandini productions on their web site in which they extend what they do with input from choreographers from a variety of disciplines.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton