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From A to B and the Space in Between. Pendulum by Kallo Collective.

Why do we laugh? Why exactly is our mind being tickled by actors in a play tripping over intentionally rumpled rugs, spilling drinks, or mistaking a tea bag for a monocle? What makes us laugh even harder, when the same happens again and again, at strategically timed moments throughout the routine? Where do we escape to, when we chuckle and grin, and let our eyes tear up with joy?

Physical comedy invites the recognition of universal experiences and feelings, paralleled by the comfort of distance – a subliminal reminder of the last time we stumbled over a rug and the relief that it wasn’t on this stage in front of everyone here. Written and performed by Luis Sartori do Vale & Thom Monckton (Kallo Collective), Pendulum is a world densely populated by comedic mistakes, mishaps and miscommunication – all here, on this stage, for us.

The play is generous and kind – it allows us the necessary tickle of the mind, perhaps to make us feel better about our own stumbling and our own mishaps. The story follows two unnamed characters, in a quasi-domestic setting, which proves to be, in turn, warm, welcoming and wildly uncontrollable. The rocking chair is the starting point (and a recurrent point of return) in the characters’ lulling journey from one act to another.

The subtle nods to black comedy slapstick aesthetics create smart and intricate situations, with a tone of apparently sombre atemporality, which eventually comes to contradict itself: a turn-of-the-century camera, a squeaky rubber toy, the sound of Formula 1 racing, a pocket watch, a plastic cup. These surprising inconsistencies play into the wider sense of unruliness of scenography – a scene of the play sees almost all objects moving, swinging uncontrollably, as the two protagonists attempt to bring it all to a halt. Hanging plants, rocking chairs, metronomes, a wooden rocking horse, eventually the bodies of the actors themselves – they swing and sway, oscillating on seemingly chaotic, but really very clear trajectories.

The concept of the play – the pendulum – is explored through object manipulation, somatically satisfying sound and light design (Petteri Rajanti and Jere Mönkkönen), comedic play of repetition and callback, tension and release, indirect references to genres of contemporary circus, and manipulation of movement itself. Movement, in fact, seems to be a third character in the play – a trickster, a jester, a predictable performer, whose routine is cleverly interrupted with humorous interventions and tricks. Here, the play enters a rather conceptual zone, in which perpetual movement and restlessness are examined at the meeting point between discomfort and relief.

A pendulum is an object, hanging by a thread, whose equilibrium is disturbed as it’s being set into motion. Accelerated by gravity, the object swings back and forth, not daring to stray from its trajectory, as it’s being pulled towards its original point of equilibrium.

There is a sort of metaphysical sadness in this movement – a separation of the object from its point of peace. In its still, calm hanging, the object is drawn to the ground; in motion, the object fights its way between the attraction to other objects and the “craving” of the closest point to the ground. Gravity, however, is a stronger force than whatever force might pull it towards others – and eventually, the pendulum will come to a standstill.

Sartori do Vale and Monckton make the most of the time and space in between, the ripe zone where everything that moves can become something else. The play is here a pantarheian river, where a moving body can turn into a dancing body with a quick finger snap, and turn back, with the same quick snap.

In the end, the characters go out with a bang; in their own well-earned escape, they ride out into a wind, light and smoke storm, swinging on a rocking chair and a rocking horse, fiercely ringing a bell, as if to announce themselves to the next act.

Photo by Cosmin Cirstea /Yourphotostory.dk
Photo by Cosmin Cirstea /Yourphotostory.dk

Pendulum is a co-production by Kallo Collective and DYNAMO Workspace for Circus and Performing Arts.

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