REVIEW: 'Thomas Monckton' and 'Gandini Juggling'

This month sees the London International Mime Festival take over venues across the city. I will be seeing a couple more of these shows throughout January but I kicked it off this week with two of them.

Thomas Monckton: The Pianist (Circo Aereo - Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall)

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When most people think of clowns, they probably either think of Tim Curry's terrifying 'It' or a middle-aged kids party entertainer making balloon animals and squirting water from a fake buttonhole flower.

Clowning is one of the most difficult, physical and demanding of the circus disciplines as it requires a supreme level of skill and control; it requires the performer to relinquish control of the self and commit entirely to a character and an absurd premise. Thomas Monckton displays all of this, and more. He is, by turns, an aerialist, a dancer, a contortionist, an actor and a comedian. 

A hapless musician simply wants to walk onto the stage and play. Obviously this is not as simple as it may seem and Monckton held the audience spellbound for sixty minutes as he attempted, failed, and attempted once more to play the piano. Beautiful moments included his thwarted attempts to take the sheet from the grand piano, his accomplished chandelier aerial routine, and the finale as the smoking piano yielded magical flowers. 

I have a love of circus, and I am constantly in awe of physical theatre performers: Thomas Monckton is, quite rightly, lauded as one of the best.

Gandini Juggling (Linbury Studio Theatre - The Royal Opera House)

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I was attracted to this show based on the premise alone: ballet and juggling? Together? With a live string quintet on stage as well? Well, let's go and see that!

It was as beautiful and as baffling as I expected: at moments there was so much going on I genuinely didn't know where to look. After the first section I turned to my boyfriend and whispered "I don't think I've blinked for about fifteen minutes!"

The level of skill on display was truly incredible: the four ballet dancers (two male and two female) and four jugglers (two male and two female) had a lovely symmetry and symbiosis - I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during initial rehearsals - as they wound in and out of each other, throwing, catching, jumping, pirouetting and leaping... it was mesmerising. I especially enjoyed the sequence with the rings, and the incidental "Can you dance while the ball is in the air?" and there was a nice flow of group acts and solo or duo routines.

There were some moments that I felt were a bit superfluous and (I hate to say it) pretentious, but on the whole it was a beautifully choreographed, lit and staged production with a highly trained and dedicated cast.


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