Category Archives: Circus

REVIEW: ‘SLAVA’S SNOW SHOW’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(4 / 5)

 

Slava’s snowshow is completely original and unlike anything you might have seen before,  although it may be triggering for those with a serious clown aversion (thanks to Stephen King and his fondness for drain-based terror!).

Polunin’s production straddles the traditional theatre show, mime, the avant garde, the clowning niche and pure spectacle.  The resulting concoction is one that surprises, delights and tickles the audience.  Balloons crop up here and there. A rocking horse, stars and a moon, a music box, a swing. Beautifully designed props and scenery by Ivan Yarapolskiy and Dmitry Khamzin pick at your childhood memories (and at times – your nightmares!).

Slava’s snowshow does not have a narrative or a beginning, middle or an end. It’s actually hard to know where the vignettes and sketches will lead, but beneath the playful care-free demeanour of the show, every step, breath and look is careful, choreographed and deliberate.

An insignificant nod of a head, a wink, a snail’s pace trudge across the stage – the movements toe the line between tenderness and tragedy, laced with clownery and foolishness.

This production deliberately disrupts the frenetic pace and convention of many modern productions.  It crosses the barriers between the audience and the action on stage and playfully invites adults to re-enter the colourful imaginarium of their youth.

You will instantly lower your guard, becoming absorbed in the wonder of the physicality and comic energy of the clowns the and sheer absurdity of the vignettes. But Slava’s snowshow truly succeeds in speaking to your inner child – and the sheer simplicity of this patchwork of comedy is effective and stunning.

The theatrical inspiration may have come from Chaplin, from Ukranian dramaturgs like Gogol and from street theatre and pantomime – but the language of Slava Polunin is completely universal.

The on stage action is part-dream, part-fantasy and complete spectacle. Polunin’s aim was to fuse together the tragic and the comic and create a kaleidoscope of colour, events and sound. His intention was to revitalise the way modern audiences respond to clowning…the result is more personal, more intelligent and intriguing than anything you might  have experienced at a birthday party or witnessed on cheesy Saturday night TV.

The scenes created on stage are wonderfully inventive – a bed becomes a boat, a coat stand becomes a person and curtains become snowy rocks.  The action on stage spills out into the audience frequently.  Slava’s clowns walk over the backs of audience chairs, a giant cobweb is passed over the heads of the audience and without spoiling any surprises – there is carnage in the theatre at the end of the show. I feel sorry for the people brushing that up!

Even if clowns really aren’t your cup of tea – this is unmissable.

4 stars

***

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Slava’s Snow Show

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff)

Dates: 17-21  October

 

Created and staged by Slava Polunin

Stage Technician: Ivan Yarapolskiy

Sound Technician: Alexey Lavrentyev

Light Technician: Alexander Iakolev

 

An Interview with Des George, winner of the Best Promoter, Rural Touring Awards.

Photographic credits Keith Morris www.artswebwales.com

Hi Des great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi my name is Des and I am based at Neuadd Dyfi a venue in West Wales.

The venue you support is called Neuadd Dyfi and is in West Wales. how is the venue used by the local community?

Over the last 20 years we have worked hard to create a flexible space. Flexibility is the key. A community hall has to attempt to do all things for all. Though there are some compromises we manage to hold full scale pantomimes, art exhibitions, community lunches wedding receptions play groups dance theatre workshops, Zumba Women’s institute and blood donor sessions.

Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi

How did you get involved in supporting Night Our performances at Neuadd Dyfi?

I met the legendary John Prior at a village hall forum around about 1999 he suggested Frank Hennessey & Friends we had a superb “Night Out “ and I was sold on the concept

Night Out financially underwrites the majority of the cost of booking professional touring work for smaller venues, community halls and schools. Would you be able to book work in your venues without Night Outs support?

We do book work in our hall without Night Out support but if we didn’t have their help this would severely restrict the range and quality of the events we put on. Night Out gives us and the performers the confidence to “be bold”

Your venue has a very diverse artistic programme including family productions, folk music, musical cabaret, adult drama and opera. How do you decide on what type of work to programme in your venue?
It would be great to say that it is based on sound market research and a deep understanding of the Arts. To be honest is largely what tickles our fancy. For the last three years I have attended the National Rural Touring Forum conference which has been excellent for seeing showcased examples some of which are in their development stage. Hosting an event that has been through the Night out vetting procedure is also a good filter. Variety and quality are the key.

Congratulations on winning the award for Best Promoter in the Ticket source Rural Touring Awards. The awards recognise the valuable work of productions, venues, promoters, schemes, and staff in the rural touring sector What qualities would you say are required for a successful promoter?
Research, marketing and being prepared to take risks. Develop and look after your audience. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Think about the layout most appropriate for the show theatre, cabaret , in the round. This can make a great difference to the success of the event. Be prepared to take risks and move on from failure.

We spoke to Peter Gregory, Head of Night Out at Arts Council Wales about the Night Out scheme and Des.

How does Night Out as an organisation support organisations such as Neuadd Dyfi to programme high quality touring productions?

Des George and the team of volunteers in Neuadd Dyfi work tirelessly organising a myriad of events and activities for their community. They use the Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme to take away the financial risk of booking professional shows. In the same way that many of the major Theatres and Arts Centres get funding Night Out allows small community halls to book amazing shows. Night Out provides advice ,support and will often ensure that high quality companies that normally tour to Theatres also provide high quality shows for community halls.

http://www.nightout.org.uk

Des recently won the award for Best Promoter in the Ticket Source, Rural Touring Awards. In your own words why do you think Des won this award?

The commitment from Des is second to none and the feedback we get from the companies who perform in the hall is always positive. Not only does he ensure everything is correct technically, the performers are fed and watered and welcomed into the local community. In the words of one happy company “ Des is a God amongst men”

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to accessing high quality productions for the audiences you support?
There is often a perception that because it is held in a village hall that it will be an amateurish production. There is so often the statement “Oh I don’t like that sort of thing” . In today’s environment of every home having widescreen TV’s, iPods, iPad’s, streaming videos, instantly obtainable music of any genre it is a battle to show that a shared experience at a live production is special


If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
For us I would like to develop our youth theatre provision. Active involvement.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I think that ACW has been absolutely right in concentrating on maintaining their support for performance. They have been good to us in a number of our capital projects but without the performances we wouldn’t have a community hall we would just have a hall. The recent report that support for the Arts is being strengthened in the regions not just London centric is very encouraging.
My advice to a potential audience member is do take the time to read that poster, have a look at what’s on locally and make that small bit of effort needed to venture out for a “Great Night Out”.

Thanks for your time Des

Review Mother Africa, Khayelitsha – My Home , Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

(4 / 5)

Described as a crossbreed of traditional African dance and circus stunts, Mother Africa is an explosive and fun event to attend.

While I felt it more leaned to the Circus route, the setting, language, music and dance all had the essence of traditional Africa, or at least what we believe it to be. Implemented with short narratives, the performers keep to a native tongue, and so the use of the universal language of gesture is relied upon, giving us the essence of peering through to their way of life. The production looks at the difference levels of Africa- the poor, the average, areas of boosting economy and the rich, not relying purely upon the negative connotations that can be associated with this vibrant country.

The music is interesting, majority positive and easy to listen to. The dancing is incredible, fast paced and interesting – leaving you slightly awe inspired as to the earthly, natural positioning of their body and its movement.

But what struck me was the circus skills. As a (not so secret) wannabe circus performer, despite my 0 skills, I have seen many a circus show/act in my years in performance art . And when you have seen something as much as that, you would think that you would grow a sense of numbness to the awe, to the fear. And I have to some extent. This is not to mean I do not enjoy it as much as I would have with those feelings still, but I have grown a different sense to it – more inspirational and a sense of learning. But somehow, Mother Africa revoked those old feelings. They take skills to a new death defying level, and the gentle shake of my head and grin at being shocked at the unbelievable tricks was constant.

Speaking to Jolene, one of Sadler’s Wells press managers, we agreed that Mother Africa is a interesting, warm and welcoming show mid-week after a hard day of work, a boring time in life or in general, a fantastic show to invest in.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2017/mother-africa-khayelitsha-my-home/

Review Bianco, No Fit State Circus, Southbank Centre by Hannah Goslin

Image result for bianco no fit state

(5 / 5)

This being my third time to Bianco over the years, it’s as if I’m visiting an old friend. I know the general basics, I’m sure they still look the same but something is different, something better if better was even possible from the previous.

No Fit State’s Bianco is a vagabond group of circus skilled professionals clambering around a moveable stage in a more traditional tent. The combination of tradition and the modern combines equally in this show – we see trapeze, silks, juggling and so on, but they’ve taken a different take on them. The group of adult children, playing with one another, the audience, dressed in mismatched almost ‘steam punk’ –esque attire, there’s a non-placed era to the production and so ages and time are not a concept; the concept is fun, play and a group to be feared but which is hard to after them being so easy to love.

There is no fear to interact with us; at one point being stared at for a good 5 minutes even for me put me on edge, but also made me laugh. They flirted with us, not just with their charming conversation, the occasional wink and playful nature, but with their tricks – when we thought it would go one was it went another to surprise us. The performances were flawless.  And let’s be honest, who does not love a circus performer?

As I have said, returning to Bianco for a third time and being over quite a few years, I saw the original, an update and now a new version. The most poignant scenes are still there, perfected as always, but there are additions, new members of the family, updates and even different music. My only sorrow was to see that in previous productions there was a father figure amongst the family of nomads who is not in the current production who gave a sense of leadership, a feeling that these homeless travellers in their strange collection of clothing and intimacy with one another were lead by this man. Now it’s very much a young man’s game, and these grown children are enjoying life, meeting the boundaries of danger and having the time of their lives – there is nothing better than seeing performers enjoying their jobs. Now we could say this is brilliant acting; their banter with each other and ourselves just creating the playful atmosphere but somehow, I do not think even Olivier himself could fake pure joy of a part.

Bianco is nothing less that phenomenal. Harping back to traditional Circus, they have paid tribute to this but adding some things new and never before seen, with each resurrection of the show they keep even us old hat fans coming back for more.

 Run away with the Circus; Run away with Bianco.

 

Review Performance at The New Theatre by Lois Arcari


Newtheatre

 

(4 / 5)

 

Director James Williams was placed, alongside the producers at Arts Active Wales, with the admirable but ultimately unenviable task of threading together a week’s worth of workshops, carried out by young people who had never before met, together into a show worthy of the New Theatre.

Despite the insularity that is always a potential threat to any of these types of projects, they always expand outside their form – making it a real shame this performance, perhaps weighed down by the somewhat awkward virtue of its name, wasn’t a tad more well marketed. What the Sherman NT Connections festival did so well with interpreting set theatre pieces this project did for new material.

There were, of course, lots of layers of interweaving. The more complex ideas with the weaker ones, the reasonably large age gap of performers aged 14 – 25, and of course the disciplines of circus, design, dance, art, music and the spoken word. The poetry, overseen by Literature Wales was one of the highlights, although a few themes might’ve meandered, and there were moments where politics seemed a little indelicately transposed onto some performers. Having sat in on the workshop, any chinks in the material were minute distractions against the obvious double edged sword of the time frame, and the integration of every workshopped piece into the whole.

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The ensemble for ‘Performance’ 2016

Community Music Wales where also very active in the show but where better executed and more memorable when used as a backbone for the other artforms. The Art and Design elements were the most sporadically used but well done; a Dali like background to an intense, exhaustive dance piece the most effective example. Impressive puppetry was also used, although the flashy teddy bear, turned Gothic by the lighting, would best be appreciated of those who, unlike this critic, have not been subjected to the ‘wonders’ of FNAF by younger family. No Fit State’s Circus performances showed the two most obvious flavours, a humorous but slight juggling gag to trapeze, but there will be no world in which the mastery of the latter doesn’t inspire some kind of awe.

All the elements worked well together, but Earthfall Dance had a monopoly on the night. Contemporary dance is one of those things all too easy to get wrong, viewed by the general public with cynicism, and even sometimes within the arts with a gentle wryness. In this show, it was stunning, performed by the trained dancers, with natural acting talent alongside passionate energy. It whipped up the most natural commentary and narrative of the night whilst seeming absolutely effortless. As always, simplicity was king and queen alike. Even though others without dance experience were involved, they too seemed totally natural. Whether swift and pulsating or tender and subdued, it was perfectly executed.

Overall, the pieces which were meant to form more of a cohesive story than a thematic connection were too brilliant not to hinder the more standalone pieces which would otherwise be fine if unengaging but it rather accurately depicted the current arts scene, whilst showing plenty of scope for new forms of talent. The difficulty in reviewing this was that any flaws are part of its form and therefore, any commentary can’t seem too constructive, but trying to bring young talent out of its usual spheres and into the general stage is an admirable thing. It was never going to be perfect or show any calculated insight, but it was certainly vibrant and showed plenty of the organic kind. Very much worth keeping an eye out for next year, but keeping it in context is essential for the ride.

Director: James Williams

Producer: Arts active
Assistant producers/collaborators: Literature Wales, No Fit State, Earthfall Dance, Community Music Wales, Criw Celf
Running time: 1 hr 20 mins

 

Interview Ellie Kate Edwards and Penarth Circus

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Our project coordinator recently spoke to Ellie Kate Edwards about her background in Circus and her plans for a new Circus School and festival events in Penarth.

Hi Ellie you have a background in training with Circomedia and No Fit State Circus. Is it possible to give our readers some background information on yourself?

 Yes, I am from a little village In Caerphilly. I spent most of my childhood around horses and adventuring in the mountains. I loved dance and music. I was inspired by circus when I saw NoFit State’s ‘Immortal’ in Barry. It was the start of my obsession with circus. At the time I was studying social work and left the course to follow my passion. I started training in the South of Spain with a beautiful travelling community. They had an aerial rig in the most idyllic setting. I would train all day long getting blinded by the sun . I used to love looking at the sky line of the mountains while I was upside down. It was there that I decided to follow circus as a career and returned to study in Bristol.

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Photographic Credit Paul Ripley

Thanks, was  there a moment when you thought, “this is the career for me?”

Absolutely, it’s an incredibly demanding and competitive career. I sometimes I think it must be very nice to have a fixed contract, paid holidays and some security in your work. Having said that I love circus and I would feel totally at a loss without it.  I have put countless hours into my passion and when you put so much love and work into something it becomes part of you.  I wouldn’t want to change that.

Are there any individuals or organisations that helped support you once you realised a career in circus was for you?

I have had a huge support from Nofit State all the way through my career. From helping with audition pieces, a traineeship and guidance with new circus ventures. There has always been someone from NoFit State with the right bit of support at exactly the right moment.

Awareness of circus as an art form is growing, organisations like No Fit State are leading the way in circus across the world.  In your opinion what is need to help the art form develop?

Circus is at a very exciting time in its development, It will be very interesting to see which directions it will take. When we train in circus schools we are allowed a period of time where we can be very creative and inquisitive with circus as a new art form, we can develop our skills as individuals find the material which is unique to each circus performer within their discipline and so prevent ever trapeze artist from performing the same routine.

Once we leave circus schools we very quickly learn that the opportunity for this creative exploration is limited and to make a career in circus we very quickly have to produce the work which is in demand. If we could access funding we could return to this with time to collaborations with other circus performers and artists from different art forms. We could again explore the opportunities to make circus political and find the possibilities for progression. There are a lot of possibilities and avenues to be explored still but circus performers and directors need to time and resources to research. I have recently started to put on circus events in my local area. I am finding that there are many venues who want to have circus shows in there venue as it reaches a large and diverse audience. The problem is it costs a lot of money to bring circus shows to venues and so it can only happen if the venue, company or a combination are prepared to take big financial risks. Opportunities to find match funding or funding to help venues set us as a circus venue could help this to happen.

Ineptgravity Photography

Photographic Credit Ineptgravity Photography.

You frequently support workshop activity with members of the public, do you think this type of activity is important and why?

Circus has always been a temporary moment of magic which would bring communities together to share the experience. Although the tent would get packed away and the circus would leave it would leave behind a mark and memories on a landscape. I think that re engaging with this shared creative energy which brings communities together can only be a positive thing.  I love how accessible circus is. There is something for everyone. It is a joy full activity to learn with constant challenges but also many small victories along the way. To begin with it is subtly physical and great for our physical and mental wellbeing. It teaches children to support and look after each other and allows adults to connect and get stronger and fitter but through a creative medium.

What are the opportunities for those interested in circus in Wales?

 You are lucky to live in Wales!  The opportunities are vast. No Fit state run a full program of classes for adults and young people in Cardiff the community there is vibrant supportive and addictive. You can also check out the opportunities for circus in other areas of Wales. There are many established community circuses offering training in different areas around Wales.

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Photographic Credit Thomas Madhavan.

Elaine Bennett Co-founder of Penarth Circus and myself are so passionate about circus we would like to bring it to our doors steps. So we have started Circus Penarth. Over the summer we will be putting on workshops at many events and also we will be bringing some spectacular performances to Penarth Pier and other Vale of Glamorgan venues. We are hoping to start classes in Penarth over the winter.

That sounds great! If you were in charge of funding the arts in Wales what would be your priorities?

I would priorities bringing arts to vulnerable communities who could benefit from creativity. I think art can be used as a tool for empowerment and progress so why not channel it to communities who need this.  Having gained so much from the support of NoFit State Circus I would love to see the community in Cardiff continue to develop so they can keep giving this support to other people.  I would definitely prioritise keeping this community in Cardiff and  finding them a permanent community space. I would make the opportunities for funding more transparent and accessible to artists who are starting out and I would put a lot of energy in to keeping artists working as artists.

When you aren’t performing what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to climb mountains, paddle in the sea and watch my little boy grow up very quickly. I love playing the piano accordion and currently I enjoy spending lots of my free time on Penarth Pier.

You are involved in some summer events at Penarth Pier can we know more?

 Yes.  We are organising and event called Y Môr – Bygones of Penarth, It will be performed in and around Penarth Pavilion on the 30th of July.  The event will involve local creative communities who will be supported by a professional cast and directed by Olga Ina Morati. We hope to bring the pier and pavilion to life in an immersive promenade performance recreating memories from Penarth pier through different points in history.

Over the summer we will also be performing and facilitating workshops at different Penarth events and festivals. Every Saturday in August we will be organising different circus and theatre acts as well as street shows to perform on the pier. We will keep you updated with our performances and visiting acts on our Penarth Circus Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/231548013900190/

How do we get involved in your circus projects?

We are looking for community members who are interested in sharing their memories of Penarth Pier for Y Mor – Bygones of Penarth and also any creative individuals or groups who would like to get involved in the evenings events. If you are interested please contact us on; cardiffsplatch@gmail.com or through our Facebook page.

 Sounds great, many thanks for your time

Review Big Bottom Bonanza, London Burlesque Festival, by Hannah Goslin

London Burlesque Festival

Big Bottom Bonanza

(3 / 5)

It’s that time of year again. In the heart of Camden ladies and gentleman travel near and far as performers and audiences to see this famous name – a festival collating cabaret and burlesque performers from all across the world.

For the first time ever, the festival brings a night of big bottoms but not for the first time, talent, beauty, charisma, gorgeous costumes and dazzling routines.  Known for its body appreciation and acceptance and celebration of men and women alike, this themed night doesn’t seem like something new. Burlesque crowds accept the art and not the looks and celebrate all forms of people. But this night collates these curvaceous beauties and their amazing confidence.

From the patriotic British routine, where we are made to salute our queen and country in the name of wiggling bottoms to a flown in New Yorker bringing us a cheeky classical routine, as always the festival brings a range of routines that make us laugh and leave us in awe. We’re transported from the 1940’s cabaret scene to a 70’s disco and each time there is excitement, there’s something new and something even more admirable than the last.

Anyone can love burlesque – and I urge everyone whether into theatre, into cabaret or none of these art forms at all to see a show. There’s always something either in the theme, in the types of performers or in the choice of routine ideas – one show leaves you confident, elated and able to conquer the World.

 London Burlesque Festival

May 6-22

Dingwalls

 

Review Closer, Circa, Udderbelly by Hannah Goslin

http://www.udderbelly.co.uk/images/made/images/uploads/closer_for_web_750_500_60_c1.jpg

(4 / 5)

Closer

[Kloh-ser]

Adjective
Comparative of close

Close

[Klohz, Klohs]

verb (used with object), closed, closing.

to bring together the parts of; join; unite (often followed by up)

verb (used without object), closed, closing.

to come together; unite:

to come close: 

to grapple; engage in close encounter (often followed by with)

adjective, closer, closest.

having the parts or elements near to one another:

being in or having proximity in space or time:

marked by similarity in degree, action, feeling, etc.:

near, or near together, in kind or relationship:

intimate or confidential; dear.

based on a strong uniting feeling of respect, honor, or love:

Audio Described review 

The word closer has so many different meanings – the list goes on. It can be negative and it can be positive. In the case of Circa’s performance of ‘Closer’, it is certainly a positive experience emanating the above definitions and some more.

How much closer could one get to a small, intimate audience, only a matter of inches away from bending, flipping and tumbling bodies, inside the belly of a giant purple cow? Everything about this show is the definition of Closer – the performers with their relationship, trust and confidence in one another to undertake stunts in a small area, to be close physically with one another to do death defying aerial tricks, push, pulling and throwing each other around the stage; the interaction with the audience through speech, facial expressions and involvement of a select few.

Through the dangerous tricks, the rare but possible accidents and often the technical aspect of rigging and staging, it’s a new take on circus to attempt this in such a small area. Stereotypically we are used to the big tops, some branching out and bringing new takes on circus but still in large arena’s such as the astonishing ‘Bianco’ by Cardiff’s own No Fit State Circus and the occasional trapeze, hula hoop or juggling in small cabaret settings such as variety and burlesque shows. However, this is instantly something new. Minimalist set and rigging, the majority of the tricks performed make use of the performers bodies instead of staging and rigging. Moments that make the audience gasp in pain, when the performers look comfortable and still at ease. These performers make everything look so easy – but still, DO NOT TRY AT HOME!

These awkward oddball cool kids not only give us tricks, but they give us acting. Their strange romantic yet family-like playful interaction with one another as well as with us gives us a warm feeling inside and also a little giggle. With the addition of music which is a mixture of popular songs, remixed versions and then strange instrumental combinations, these parts of the Circa puzzle gives the whole sense of a strange Parisian world where these characters are the only 5 who reside – but yet we are welcomed and included with open arms.

Cringey yet fascinating and exciting tricks, air defying skills, a bit of danger, a laugh and something a little different to the ‘norm’ – what else would you want to spend your night watching?

Review Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

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Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Book by Mark Bramble

Lyrics: Michael Stewart

Music: Cy Coleman

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating: 4.5

Jugglers, acrobats, gymnasts et al entertain as the audience takes their seats – latecomers miss a treat. Spectacle and excitement with dazzling displays of circus expertise – Barnum has them all. Based on the life of American showman Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum who took his team of trapeze artists clowns, jugglers plus talented performers such as the singer Jenny Lind all over America and the major cities of the world, this is musical theatre traditional style given a new fillip by Cameron Mackintosh in this Chichester Festival Theatre production.

All the elements of the original Broadway production are here, but for those who were fortunate (or are old enough!) to have seen the production starring Michael Crawford which ran for a record-breaking 655 performances at the London Palladium after it opened in 1981, the big question must be: Does Brian Conley who is playing the demanding and exhausting role of showman PT Barnum live up to the almost-impossibly-high standard created by Crawford?

The answer has to be: Yes! Yes! And Yes! Conley’s Barnum is a likeable con man who could charm monkeys off trees – and does. Though when he forsakes his long-suffering wife Chairy, whose views differ radically from his as to what is right and what is not, siding with him becomes momentarily difficult. Even here, how can you feel anything but gut-wrenching suspense for a man who walks a tightrope to get to the temptation awaiting him on the other side in the shape of a delectable Swedish opera singer?? Metaphorically speaking, you say? No – in a daring act which took weeks to perfect, Conley actually does walk the tightrope. Indeed, throughout the show, along with the rest of the cast, he runs the gamut of acrobatic and dance skills with aplomb and style.

The bubbly Linzi Hateley more than holds her own as Chairy, the wife who despite brooking none of her circus-loving hubby’s nonsense, remains true to him till the end. The story of their marriage, with all its ups and downs, runs in perfect tandem with the on-going razzmatazz of the show, peppered with songs such as the foot-tapping ‘Come Follow the Band’ which opens Act I and Barnum’s theme song of ‘There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute’ plus the poignancy of ‘The Colors of My Life’ sung with feeling by Conley and Hateley, as is ‘So Little Time’ later, in Act II.   If there is a criticism to be made – and in such a polished production it seems almost invidious to do so – it is that Kimberly Blake as opera star Jenny Lind, while looking stunning and ethereal in an ice blue creation that would not look out of place at the Oscars, is a tad too ethereal. The lack of chemistry between her and Barnum renders their love affair not entirely believable – a minor hiccup in an otherwise five star production.

A considerable chunk of credit for the fizzing excitement that characterises this high-energy show must go to the ensemble. On stage for most of the time, the acrobats, trapeze artistes, high wire experts and dancers never flag. Some neat cameo roles, too, from David Birch as an anxiety-ridden Wilton, while   Edward Wade’s Julius Goldschmidt is a gem.

With great costumes and breath-taking staging – including a mock-up of the nether limbs of an elephant – this show is a firecracker.

Runs until Saturday August 15th

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/Barnum/

 

 

 

 

Review Bianco No Fit State Circus by Becca Hobbs

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“We should know by now that the most exact, most precise representation of the human heart is the labyrinth. And where the human heart is involved, anything is possible”

(The Elephant’s Journey, José Saramango)

Nofit State Circus is back with its newly adapted 2015 immersive promenade experience BIANCO. Entering the tent you are left to explore a huge dimly lit grunge style performance space. As the artists gabble away to each other, pushing through the crowd as if obstacles, the pre-show is choreographed chaos with silhouettes of performers, hidden by translucent sheets, warming up behind a scaffolding cage in front of you. Props and ladders are thrown around amongst muffled shouts of indistinct languages and you stand there invisible, as if you have secretly stumbled into an unidentifiable time.

Channelling Portuguese laureate José Saramango’s novel The Elelphant’s Journey, embarking on an adventure across Europe, creator and director Firenza Guidi’s BIANCO plays with concepts of geographical place and contemporary culture. With a cast from all over the world, the show incorporates elements of burlesque humour, romance and cabaret set against innovative contemporary imitations of a trip to the cinema and a balmy trampoline based scene at the seaside.

Between the tender moments of interpretative sequences in the air by the trapeze, rope and silk artists, there are dives and stunts that generate gasps from the audience as performers drop, spin and leap above and around you but the element of danger makes it all the more exhilarating. Whilst the team are incredibly safety conscious with the audience, particularly the children, the company perform without safety nets. However, their energy and confidence is infectious and within the first fifteen minutes, you begin to forget that they are in danger at all as you are so wrapped up in the visual and aural spectacle. Scene changes often become a part of the act and there is always something to overt your eye and capture your attention whist structural reshuffles are taking place.

There are a few stagnant changes but the momentum is never lost as the atmosphere is maintained by the incredible live band and diverse score. BIANCO is as much about the artistic choreography as it about the music that compliments it.

Bianco

Shedding their clothes, transforming and adapting to each new structure, the chameleon like performers take on multiple roles within this huge narrative and create a visual language that demonstrates (building on the foundations of Saramango’s novel) that we are capable of surpassing our own expectations. To single out individuals feels wrong as every performer whether they are holding an instrument, strapped to a harness or doing both adds something unique.

You cannot merely watch the show, for those extensive 140 minutes you become a part of it, being allowed to enter the performers intimate world both figuratively and literally through the promenade experience. If you are willing to embrace BIANCO for what it is – there is no pandering to the audience, you are shuffled around and you stand for the duration – the danger, spectacle and unrestrained beauty will take your breath away. The technical skill and serenity is coupled with something raw but the outcome is utterly compelling. Nofit State Circus bares its soul in this pioneering production of friendship and adventure. It is clear that a NoFit family has been created and by end of show when in that moment you want to be a part of it, you find yourself left in the finale’s close standing in a snow globe with the performers watching you.

NoFit State don’t just set the bar high, they fearlessly leap over it.