Roll up roll up… just the mere mention of the word ‘circus’ has to be one of the most evocative in the English language. Whether from personal experiences or from the multitude of cultural references in which the circus plays a key part – mine include trips to Blackpool Circus in infant school (the water!!), this frequently chilling Doctor Who story and of course Dumbo – there’s something undeniably persuasive about it, a sense of magical escapism that means the brain never quite discounts running away to the circus as a potential life choice 😉
But times change and so too has the circus, or at least some parts of it, as can be seen in the rise of the incredibly popular strand of contemporary circus. Companies like NoFit State and shows like La Clique and La Soirée, and Cantina (which is still running at the London Wonderground) may have left the animals behind but in doing so have focused the attention onto the often breath-taking, boundary-pushing physical endeavours of their human ensembles. So when I was invited to come and preview NoFit State Circus’ upcoming show at the Eden Project in Cornwall, it was something of a no-brainer. I’d never been to this part of the UK before, the offer to teach us some circus skills intrigued and the clips on YouTube looked frankly amazing.
NoFit State partnered with the Eden Project last year, creating the site-specific show Labyrinth which proved to be a huge success and so producers Tom Rack of NoFit and Tom Critchley of the Eden Project decided to continue that relationship for a second summer. This year’s show – Bianco – is being written and directed by Firenza Guidi and has been designed with a view to taking the show on an extensive tour after its run here in Cornwall. The full company of artistes had only just come together before our visit, but the 10 minute snippet of the show that we were privileged to witness already had a pulsing, vibrant energy and the makings of something really rather spectacular.
From flying trapezes to Chinese poles, extreme trampolining to feats of extraordinary gymnastic ability, the talent of this company is evident from the off. But the combined effect of the physicality with a throbbing soundtrack and Guidi’s acute direction, teasing out further commitment from everyone, is to create something quite dramatic, in all senses of the word. After a hilarious hula-hoop lesson from our most tolerant and talented instructor, I chatted to the Toms over cake and it was fascinating to hear them talk about one of the main strengths of NoFit State being in their ability to blur the dividing line, such as it exists, between theatre and contemporary circus to generate the kind of profound experience that one might argue stands this apart from something like the shiny but ultimately rather soulless La Clique.
So if you’re headed down towards Cornwall this summer, then I’d heartily recommend making a booking for Bianco. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back down there for the actual show as my own summer holiday will see me decamp to France for three weeks and leave precious little time for anything else. But should the show come to London on its tour, I’ll be sure to pay a visit.