Brighton Fringe 2013
Its a promenade circus with highs and lows, prepare to be physically moved and spiritually uplifted.
This was circus, but what kind of circus? Well it wasn’t new circus, new circus is no longer new and it wasn’t old circus though there were times during this show when I actually (and as former new circus performer I can’t believe I’m saying this) but I actually longed for a ring, some sawdust and a ringmaster. I suppose most accurately it could be described as promenade circus, and it was spectacular and it was fun and it was bold and it was also at times really irritating! Not edgy but grungy and not in a good Archaos way but in a rather half-hearted UK way. But I should say right away that I took my 6 year old son with me to see what he thought so my viewpoint was a dual view of experienced, circus veteran and 6 year olds open eyed honesty. And that’s your audience folks. So the first half was difficult, confusing and downright audience unfriendly , full of random shouting and clumsy audience manipulation but it got better and better until the final lasting image was one of pure immersive beauty as we gazed upwards at the falling flakes in wonderment. They pulled it off but boy, did we have to work hard. And I think that circus has to work harder, the audience deserves and demands more, grunge circus has been and gone, there are companies around the world producing excellent work and we in the UK need to face that challenge and up our game, up the production values, the skills are there, the skills in this show were mainly a joy to watch, apart from a very untidy 4 person rope act, there some great aerial acts, the stunning multi hoop piece, the beautifully executed and romantically gothic tightwire act, there were some wonderful visual moments, huge swinging lamps, ethereal white tardis like cages spinning cobwebs in the air and the finale was one of the best and rawest aerial acts I have seen for a long time, I loved the relationship between the performer and the counterbalance, a superbly executed duet between the performer and her counterweight, a gorgeous twisting jerking raw struggle against gravity with a stunning final image.
The show was strangely emotionless though, no characters to particularly focus on, and so the performers struggled to capture our hearts, and there was no particular narrative or none that we could easily hear, so that at times it was like watching a gang having fun in a playground with us outside, faces pressed hard against the wire wanting to join in but being moved on by some shouty parents.. This discomfort was counterbalanced, and this was a show that relied heavily on counterbalance! by the several beautifully delivered solo or duet pieces that absolutely spoke to us directly, even the acrobalance who dropped a trick recovered herself with grace and style and we applauded her for it. Circus should be about individuals as well as the mass spectacle we have become used to, it is after all a celebration of ordinary people dedicating their lives to doing extraordinary things. And then there was the set! Well, it got in the way of everything, in more ways than one, it was fussy, disturbing and it meant the audience were actually treated with scant respect by performers who really should know better, we don’t like being shouted at and brusquely moved around no matter what age we are, and I was definitely not alone in finding that this way of handling the audience lacked finesse. It let the show down, there has to be a better way to manage a promenade performance, clowns anyone? Again this goes against everything I’ve ever thought about circus but that is what this show did for me, it made me look back and wonder!
The beginning was so confusing that it was difficult to like anything for a while but the second half turned that all round, beginning with the mass trampoline act that made my son smile for the first time, I know its’ not circus for children but circus has the power to make us all children at heart, that is one of its’ attractions, so for me it was too long, 140 minutes is too long to keep their attention, and I don’t think it needed an interval. The whole show was about ups and downs, the costumes were fabulous, except for the groundlings, the band was great, the sound was not, the set looked good until it moved, the skills were intense, the tent was hot, up and down, up and down, five star acts mixed with two star staging, I want to support it, I will support it, go and see it and help it find its way, help No Fit State grow to its undeniable potential, they’ve got a rich history and, though Tabu is a hard act to follow, a future full of potential.
So would I recommend it, hell yeah, go and see it, go and see those young performers doing those extraordinary things, pulling off stunts with aplomb, learn about the art of counterbalance, watch them shimmying up and down with complete panache and grace and appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into modern circus, support this art form but challenge it, don’t just accept it. There’s just enough aerial beauty and performance skill to provide a counterbalance to the grimly bound ground and make our hearts leap up!