Photograph credit R Davenport.
Bianco’, performed by ‘No Fit State Circus’ was the last show I went to see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I left the circus tent shaking in awe. When a performance has given you a lump in your throat that makes it hard to even cheer or clap, you know they have done well. Every section beautifully designed that was enhanced by the power of the live band.
There were no individual stars but an ensemble of talented performers, each bringing their own expertise to the stage. Even though this was a stereotypical contemporary circus show, they brought so much emotion to the way they performed that it stood out from any other circus acts. The music and the lyrics especially helped create this emotion and made mini-narratives for each section. There were moments in this show where I felt I’d left reality behind and stepped into a dream. It was aesthetically pleasing in every sense that I couldn’t believe it was happening before me. I never wanted it end. What was more interesting is that I felt like I was part of the production myself. The constant change of positions to re-arrange the performance space made it become even more immersive. Sometimes it took away from the essence of fantasy, yet it was necessary.
It was evident that every aspect of the show was well thought out and infused with professionalism. Every person so physically fit it was inspiring to watch. Overall ‘No Fit State Circus’ is heightened with pure talent, innovative imagery and a set to be admired at. Step into this tent and leave reality behind.
Cardiff Comedy festival has brought many opportunities for a belly laugh over the last few weeks. Being invited to watch comical plays by South London group, Velvet Trumpet was a great opportunity and just what I needed today.
Toast began with us looking at a simple dining room table with all the pieces to the puzzle for Toast eating. What made this short skit special was that the toaster was fully functioning, filling the room with the smell of warm bread and the steam against the simple whitewash lighting. We are introduced to Michael; the usual man, making his breakfast and getting ready for work. His love affair with toast is something that most can relate to. The gluten and wheat intolerant in me could even relate to the versatility and ease of toast eating in a previous time. However toast is only a metaphor for Michael’s failed marriage and his way of coping. Hilariously taken through his story, his take on his ex-wife and his life provided many opportunities for a laugh. Interaction with the audience, bringing one on stage also made us feel hilariously awkward, such as the story at that point in time tried to express and the uneasiness of this made the audience laugh continuously. The actor playing Michael managed comedy in an almost natural way in this story telling style, without trying to bring slapstick into the performance which could have been an easy way out; so when the story turns a strange journey, this provided more comical outlets for the absurdity.
A short ten minute break and the change from the original minimalist staging and props turned into an even more simple projection. This longer piece began with a short video of Ken and Steve and their travel of 200 miles from London to Swansea, all in the name of art. However, the support of the Welsh for these two Swansea Jack’s were severely lacking, and during their ‘presentation’ Ken’s anger comes alive. This, what seemed slightly unscripted, piece was a complete turn on the night so far. A simple piece focussing mainly on the telling of a story had turned into the back and forth relationship between Steve – an average and calm man and Ken – a melodrama-ed version of a proud Welshman. More audience interaction, multimedia usage and plenty of slapstick, it was hard to not laugh. Since the actor of Ken was played by the same man as Michael in Toast, himself as a performer was really interesting to watch to show his versatility as a performer; from a naturalist story-teller to a complete over exaggerated being. Ken and Steve picked up many part of Welsh comedy, looking at stereotypes of the Welsh and of particular places in both their telling of their journey, their quips and characters themselves. Combined with high energy movement at times and use of film, this simple but effective piece was a great ending to the night.
Velvet Trumpet had combined the two pieces well by beginning with something so calm and ending with something so solidly humorous – this company sure know how to get their audience and how to combine two different forms of comedy for a fantastic night.
NoFit State Circus
Wales Millennium Centre
3rd May 2013
To describe exactly what happened would be to somehow diminish it – words could never give you the same feeling of excitement, wonder and fear as the daring feats performed by the cast of Bianco right above your head!
In their daring promenade performance NoFit State invited the audience up onto the WMC main stage where the performance took place around, in and above the crowd. Huge pieces of mobile scaffolding were manoeuvred to constantly redesign the performance space and unveil the next spectacle.
True to their style there was no concrete narrative through the piece, just reoccurring themes particularly that of shedding what is unnecessary in order to achieve more. One particularly striking scene presented immaculately dressed blonde bombshell Ariele Ebacher traversing the tightwire in high heels. Gradually she shed her tailored dress, shoes and even the blonde wig to reveal an even more agile, strong and athletic brunette – her at her best.
As if there wasn’t already enough to entertain you a fantastic live band played throughout. Their range of styles was incredible; from moody and tense to upbeat and stereotypically circus-y. Sometimes they provided an abstract narrative to the aerial action that was particularly striking when combined with the powerful grace of August Dakteris.
Some moments were truly touching, a duet performed on a suspended frame seemed to say all there is about love. The finale in which beautifully tattooed Sage Cushman joyfully performed dance-trapeze whilst a blizzard fell around her was again stunning.
These incredible moments of finely crafted theatre were sadly diminished in places by the constant movement of the huge set and more could have been done between the set changes to keep the pace as high as it was in the breakneck ensemble pieces. Also on the rare occasions that the performers poke it was impossible to hear them.
The lack of storytelling allowed the company to focus on creating a series of otherworldly and breathtaking images. This experiment into promenade circus theatre although flawed in places was certainly exciting and engaging.