Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Chapter 29: Gandini Juggling at Camp Bestival

And, now, come to this spot
Where the spotlight is hot
And you'll see in the spotlight
A Juggling Jott
Who can juggle some stuff
You might think he could not...

Dr Seuss, "If I ran the Circus"

... Like what? 
Clubs and balls, 
hoops, a few
ideas, expectations 
Thing One and Thing Two. 

Do you give a jott for juggling? If not, then what?  Circus is the new religion you know, the tent is temple, and Gandini Juggling is a slice of heaven. Say festival, think fiesta, think party, right?  Originally though, a Spanish fiesta was a day off to celebrate a patron saint, a festival was a religious holiday.  

As a child, I read Paolo de Tomie's story of "The Clown of God" about a juggler in medieval Italy who goes from festival to festival, astonishing, delighting, awe-inspiring.  Gradually he ages, his clothes are in tatters, his balls have lost their gleam, he has lost his edge.  Our juggler is shown kindness by a couple of Franciscan monks, and chances upon a church, where he finds a statue of the Christ child looking sad. That won't do.  One last time he gets out his rainbow of balls and juggles higher and higher, creating beauty in the moment. And then, his work done, he dies.  The child is smiling.  Laughter is sacred.

So I am delighted that churches have become performance spaces for circus companies - Jacksons Lane in Highgate, hello! And then I see a picture on Twitter recently of Sean Gandini and partner juggling their way through a sermon.  I assume at first, being self-styled atheist jugglers, they are at the  London Sunday Assembly, which serves "the best bits of church but with no religion".  But no, on closer inspection it appears to be a bona fide Sunday Service.  And I've since learned that there are a number of church services around that use circus acts to convey that sense of wonder and mystery.  

So I love that the first time I see Gandini Juggling live is at Camp Bestival, the family-friendly festival at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, with my three minibeasts in tow, and they are LAUGHING their heads off.

The children are a bit skeptical at first about going to see a juggling act. What's so great about that? They are used to me juggling three balls, mildly amusing, but within their reach - and the whole point of circus is that it is fantastical, it should make your jaw drop and wonder "how on earth?"

But then the six Gandini jugglers walk onto Castle Stage and they are spellbound.  Within seconds. There is no fuss to the costumes, they are like slim-fitting overalls, utilitarian, and yet pristine white, an utterly impractical colour to wear to a festival. I like that edge, and the cut-away sections that give a touch of bare-faced chic to the ensemble.  This was a short introduction to the full show.  It was like one of Willy Wonker's gobstoppers - the children savoured the first course, actually more an amuse-bouche with those smiles, and were hungry for more.  

The main banquet was held in The Greatest Tent on Earth.  What a great name to roll up to.  There were balls, hoops, over-sized globes that toyed with perspective, and glowing orbs that they presented to the children in wonder, stepping down onto the small platform in front of the stage.  My kids wondered if the orbs were made of fireflies, and whether the fireflies have enough oxygen inside the balls to breathe? Enough to last out the act at least, I reassured them ...

All the sequences were choreographed to music remixed by Rob da Bank. It was an eclectic score that encompassed upbeat and bouncy, dreamy and classical, and, well, mixed it all up.  Harmoniously. There was an undercurrent of steady crescendo that culminated in a light display at the end of swirling LED-lit clubs that changed colour to the beat of the music.  It was stunningly beautiful.  We puzzled later over how that was done. Buttons on the clubs used by the jugglers?  No, too much to co-ordinate. Pre-programmed?  Remote-controlled?  We had fun trying to work it out, and not sure I really want to know the answer. 

When I asked the kids what they favourite part was, they said "The End".  They were not being facetious. They meant the very end, when a child was picked from the audience and asked to stand very still while clubs shaved past his head.  They loved seeing one of their own involved, and so composed, what a star.  It brought the jaw-dropping fantastical into their reality.  Bravo!

The few images and clips I have really don't do Gandini Juggling justice.  This is just a taster.  Still, I hope it makes you lick your lips ... and then go see them live.  

And smile.

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