Sigma by The Gandini Project
Edinburgh Festival Assembly Rooms 2017
Go see if: You want an emotional and cerebral response
Stay away if: You want things explained
Mesmerising, visual, cerebral, multi-layered technology but simplistic in set. Successfully exploring where two rhythmical practises met: Juggling and Bharatanatyam dance. This is total theatre with careful, explicit artistic exploration of costume, set, lighting, sound, technology, spoken word, dance and juggling.
It has a dark mechanical edge to the style, stark staging and cool grey, multi-layered costumes including face covers, precise and mathematical movements all which give a very masculine edge to the all female performance. Even when the performers speak directly to the audience, it is assertive, factual and when playing with thoughts and hopes they talk of machines and philosophical concepts, maths and geometry. Explicitly delivered in ‘parts’ the dynamics are created though rhythm, pace, colour and interactions. The relationships in the piece are oddly deadpan but add to the surreal aesthetics it delivers. Whilst complex, technical and cerebral it is undeniably entertaining, fascinating and beautiful.
Seeta Patel and Indu Panday are the Bharatanatyam dance experts that layer, compare, integrate, interrogate and assimilate the patterns and pathways that exist between them and jugglers Kati Ylä-Hokkala and Kim Huynh. There is play with the ‘fourth wall’ of the theatre, sometimes addressing us factually and dead pan, yet the use of mirrors toy with our ability to perceive the full action on stage, the piece is left with us staring at our own selves.
Whilst some of the aesthetics are considered political they are mainly accidental. The all female cast was just because a guy dropped out, the face covering was a suggestion from the costume designer… yet the fact that they can be perceived as political leads back to an age old question of who is more correct; the intention of the artist or the perception of the audience. Perhaps this debate is also very telling about our current political and social climate. The fact that it is an all female cast and that seems like a statement rather than just a choice must suggest that we are not fully there in our recognition of gender in relation to skills in other genres of performance or industries. The face covering and inclusion of direct spoken word about their birth places, including that of their parents, brings to mind the current debates over freedom of movement, refugees, cultural values and how migration between ideas and people can create something so amazing.
This piece sparks many conversations, questions and ideas whilst still giving space to applaud the true skill and artistic merit of these performers, if anything was to happen that meant any of these ladies and they couldn’t perform they could not be replaced by anyone. The skill level and intricacies of the show are that high.
This is a truly captivating artistic investigate, it’s not playing for claps or laughs yet it get all the applause. An exemplary example of process of artistic thought and investigation triumphing in the creation of a ground breaking piece of work.