Circus

Meet Jesse Scott: A Man Who Stands On His Head, On A Trapeze

Having thrown off the old school trappings of ringmasters, animals and slapstick clowns, modern circus has grown in all kinds of thrilling directions. Driftwood, the latest production by Australian company Casus is a fine example of this, relying as it does on a small number of acrobats to portray an intriguing take on possibly the greatest riddle of all – human relationships.

The troupe’s first show Knee Deep was a worldwide hit and, with their current one appearing as part of the Underbelly Festival on the South Bank, we had a word with co-founder Jesse Scott. He has grown up living and breathing circus for as long as he can remember: he trained and toured with Flying Fruit company for 11 years and performed with Circa for three. His speciality involves doing an aerial feat which looks amazing and more than slightly crazy but we’ll let him describe how that came about.


The themes of both Knee Deep and Driftwood are quite abstract. Where did the ideas come from?

When we were creating the show, we looked at driftwood as a metaphor for human relationships: a piece of driftwood floats down a stream bumping into other pieces tangling itself then splitting apart again to continue on its journey. This is a lot like the people we encounter on our own journey through life; they shape who we are and the person we became. We wanted to explore this through our signature style of acrobatics. But like our other show Knee Deep, the theme is not the driving force and this means the audience can and does take away their own stories from the show.

 

Australia has given birth to a number of the finest modern circus troupes around. What makes Casus stand out from the crowd?

Joy, humility and honesty on stage and off. The most common thing I hear from the audience after they see one of our show is they saw the true joy of what we do and the real bond between performers. We are a human circus.

 

Driftwood - Jesse Scott Photo by Kate-Pardey This Is Cabaret Underbelly Festival
Driftwood – Jesse Scott Photo by Kate-Pardey Underbelly Festival

 

How did you get into circus?

I’ve been around circus since I was a baby growing up in a youth circus called The Flying Fruit Fly Circus. It’s the only thing I have ever done and to this day it is still my passion. Circus is constantly evolving and you need as a artist to keep up with the changing demand, pushing the limits of what your body can do and what the audience wants keeps me on my toes. It’s an exciting life.

 

“My head trainer chose me out of 70 kids, took me aside and made me stand on my head.
.”

 

Who are your circus inspirations?

The two creators of a wonderful Australian circus called Company 2 David Carberry and Chelsea McGuffin they have both been a massive influence and inspiration to me. They create amazing work and are amazing people.

 

How long did it take you to work out what you wanted to specialise in?

When I was 15, my head trainer chose me out of 70 kids and took me aside and made me stand on my head. At first, it was only for a minute at a time; over the next 5 months, that time increased to 30 minutes on my head. I didn’t know why he was making me do this until one day he pulled out a trapeze and told me to head stand on it. This became one of my speciality. To this day, I’m still unsure as to why he chose me but I’m very thankful he did.

 

“As corny as it may sound, we love each other.”

 

How did the core Casus crew come together?

Through a desire to make work that we had complete control over. We have always and will always create together. This is our strength and I believe you can see this on stage.

 

Why do you think you work so well as a troupe?

We are a family. We trust each other with our lives, lean on each other in crisis and everyday make each other laugh until our tummies hurt. As corny as it may sound, we love each other.


Driftwood will be appearing as part of the Underbelly Festival until 4 June. Read our review here.


Review: SOHO, Peacock Theatre

Oh, Soho. The land of drag queens, drug fiends and sex shops comes under the microscope in this new circus extravaganza at the Peacock Theatre.

SOHO is the brainchild of Stufish, arena production designers for A-listers Lady Gaga and Madonna so they know how to put on a show. In terms of production values, it is unlikely that any circus show in London this summer will look quite this good.

Soho Estates managing director John James was asked a while back whether the proposals by his company were part of a general gentrification of the area; he denied it firmly and instead suggested that Soho was undergoing “dynamic change”. That may be sophistry of the highest order but it is something that defines Stufish’s approach when ripping open and examining this kooky and kinky corner of the capital.

Soho is a unique part of London and, arguably, the world. When its famous plumber-cum-playwright Laurence Lynch was asked how to describe the place, he used the words “tolerant, tight-knit, entertaining, premenstrual and nocturnal” and SOHO demonstrates many of these aspects.

The action takes part over a 24 hour period and covers the zone from soup to nuts in different eras. We wander through Soho Square, around Chinatown, grab a coffee at Bar Italia, pop into Madame Jojo’s and head down Old Compton Street. We are taken inside a gym and a cafe before a trippy scene inside the infamous drinking den that was The Colony Room recreated here in all its green-walled horror. This is as thorough an exploration of London’s red light district as anyone could want.

But what about the human geography? Soho is nothing without the personalities which people it. Step forward a crew of talented acrobats who thrillingly portray the various characters typical to the area, not least hipsters, hippies, drag artistes, office drones, barristas, tourists and construction workers.

Daniel Ash is short on stature, long on talent and a joy to watch throughout whether in character or skilfully using aerial silks . He won the Best Performer prize at this year’s Sexual Freedom Awards and, for SOHO, he has a number of roles including the kind of local dandy epitomised by the late Sebastian Horsley and a truly fabulous drag queen. He will definitely be one to watch out for in the future.

Alessio Motta is our psychopomp through this underworld and, when not spinning on the Chinese pole, he is taking us on a tour and bumping into his equally talented international colleagues. Peter Freeman and Loric Fouchereau (from Australia and France respectively) provide some comedic hand-to-hand antics while the UK’s Antony Simpson-Tidy and Kayla Lomas-Kirton go beyond the standard big top antics to give us martial arts and hip hop dance respectively while the doubles trapeze from Canadians Xander Taylor & Mélanie Dupuis is a spectacular treat.

If anything, SOHO has a little too much of the place’s frenetic and neophilic nature for its own good. Some of the episodes make too little impression before they are moved along for the next one. At times, equipment like the Cyr wheel are flashily rolled out, used briefly and then never seen again. The pacing is generally excellent but there’s a lingering sensation of ten kilos of circus being forced into an eight kilo bag.

This Is Cabaret rating ★★★★

SOHO continues until 20 May. For more information, see the official Sadlers Wells website.

Review: Casus’ Driftwood, Underbelly Festival

Australian circus troupe Casus return to London with their latest show Driftwood, a no frills/many thrills study of human relationships and connection.

Knee Deep, the 2012 predecessor to Driftwood, gave Casus an international standing and led to that award-winning show being performed on different sides of the planet simultaneously. That’s not bad for a debut outing revolving around an abstract theme of human fragility and strength and where the most memorable prop was a tray of fresh eggs. We’re not exactly talking Cirque du So-so here.

This time around, the topic has changed to human connections but all the old Casus motifs are here. This is definitely a no frills/many thrills experience: there are only five acrobats, no live band and the only major non-circus props are a hat stand and a small red light which is lowered and raised over the middle of the stage.

Instead, the focus here is on the artists’ bodies and the phenomenal shapes they create. The various physical vignettes are well-executed and make frenetic use of this talented crew’s multiple talents from doubles trapeze to hula hooping to tumbling. The acrobalance is particularly excellent with Sarah McDougall often at the centre of some breathtaking sequences. Shannon Vitali’s aerial routine which combined hoop with single strap is both fresh and fun and a joy to watch.

The music and lighting are on the sombre side of things which gives an atmospheric ambience to the more dreamlike episodes. Even in this tent seating hundreds, this technique focuses the audience’s attention on a space little bigger than a few square feet producing a hypnotic effect. Sucking all the attention in the room into such a small area is a double-edged sword which enhances the quality (or lack thereof) of what is being displayed. In most cases this works to Casus’s advantage and adds a creative frisson to relish.

The theme doesn’t always hang together and is occasionally too opaquely delivered, especially in the parts of the show with lackadaisical choreography, but there is enough here for any circus fan to get their teeth into.

This Is Cabaret rating: ★★★★☆

Driftwood by Casus. Underbelly Festival, Paradiso Spiegeltent, Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX. From £15.50. Until 4 June.

Race Horse Bring Their Rollercoaster Circus Show To The UK

Race Horse's thrilling circus extravaganza Super Sunday is on tour around the UK until 3 June. Image: Petter Hellman.
Race Horse’s thrilling circus extravaganza Super Sunday is on tour around the UK until 3 June. Image: Petter Hellman.

Last year Finland’s Race Horse Company brought their wild circus extravaganza Super Sunday to CircusFest 2016 at the Roundhouse. This year they return with not one but two shows, taking Super Sunday and Around – a circus show for children – on a UK tour from this month until 3 June 2017.

Filmed during the 2014 run, here is a breathtaking taster of what to expect from Super Sunday.

We sat down with Rauli Kosonen and Kalle Lehto, founding members and performers of Race Horse Company, to find out more.


Race Horse Company was formed in 2008 – how did it come about and what was the Finnish circus scene like back then?

Rauli: Race Horse Company started as the dream of three circus students who wanted to create their own raw physical circus show and tour around the world. At that time in Finland, there were only a few “new circus” companies and we asked one of these, Circo Aereo, to work with us to create a show and help us with the production.  We had no idea how things worked and how things were done!  Although the Finnish circus scene is small there is a really hard-working culture, an attitude of not giving up when things are difficult.

What makes Race Horse special? Do you have a concept, a theme or a motif which goes through all your works? 

Rauli: I think we look at each work as an individual project but you can find many similarities between them. We want to be truthful to our idea of circus so we always try to tell the story – or express whatever the idea is – through our circus skills. We then like to add black humour and strange elements and then just sweat a lot – on and off stage!

In the end we do want to amaze and amuse people but in such a way that audiences don’t always have to react to everything.  We would still be there doing our thing with the same raw energy.

Your company is not short on daredevil acrobatics and your recent work has shown an aesthetic of chaos and play. How do you look for new ways to push the physical and artistic side of your work? 

Rauli: I don’t think we really have to ”look” for new ideas, more or less the ideas comes to us. Always in circus, there is this strong sense of wanting to improve yourself and your skills as much as possible. I think the same applies to creating shows or coming up with ideas. You never want to do the same thing twice, so you start to think about a new way to surprise yourself or how you can do something you haven’t done before.

Has Super Sunday changed since we last saw it at the Roundhouse during Circusfest 2016?

Rauli: The show is still the same idiotic rollercoaster ride but, of course, we make small adjustments and we still like to push ourselves to make the show better each time. We have a playful mutual encouragement to boost each other to new limits.

Tell us about the wheel of death – an impressive but dangerous piece of equipment. Is it really as dangerous as it looks? Have you ever had a serious accident during practice or performance?

Rauli: It is everything you said and even more. The first time you get the thing up and walk on it, it’s already a thrilling experience. It makes your senses really alert – knowing there is a risk of injury at every step is  hard to explain. We’ve had a few injuries s with this machine. It’s not something I really want to talk about, but as a example one of our performers flew out from the top and broke both his ankles. Luckily, nothing more was broken! That’s why we have big mattresses under the death wheel in Super Sunday, just in case.

What should the audience expect from Around? Will adults enjoy it as much as children? 

Kalle: I think all ages of audience will enjoy the show. At least that’s what Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat said!

Is Aroundyour first circus show for children? What is it like creating a circus show for a much younger audience?

Kalle: Around is actually part 2 of my trilogy of shows for children with the same ringmaster character. The first one Circles  premiered in 2012 and the third Chevalier is coming out in 2019. Creating a show for children is fun because kids are so honest with their feedback and, if they are bored, they let you know. In a way it’s more challenging because kids detect emotions but don’t yet really understand things like irony or sarcasm. And most kids come to see the show with their parents so the show has to entertain adults at the same time.

Live music is being used more and more in contemporary circus and Around features two acrobats and a band of musicians. How important is music to your work and how collaborative is the process between the acrobats and the musicians?

Kalle: I like to work a lot with music because through music I started breakdance and through breakdance I started circus. In this show we use live music because it’s about traditional circus where music was always live. The music in Around is made to accompany the performance and the live aspect creates opportunities for interaction. And even the circus artists contribute to the music in Around – I made my debut in pan flute in this show which was fun.

Super Sunday and Around are on tour in the UK from 9 April – 3 June. For tour dates visit cryingoutloud.org/whats-on/

 

Review: Becoming Shades, Vaults Festival

Persephone, daughter of Zeus has been abducted. Deep in the Underworld she fights against her imprisonment which has brought perpetual winter on earth.

This is the story of Becoming Shades, staged as part of the Vaults festival. The shadowy outlines of the forgotten myth have been reimagined for modern times by London-based company Chivaree Circus. It is also really about confinement and release and as a promenade piece in the murky tunnels below Waterloo, it does not have to try very hard to be the immersive experience it sets itself up to be.

There are various performances here from the various denizens of Hell and, no matter how each set piece varies in skill and sophistication, the way they are weaved into the story and the neatness of the promenade style direction must be admired. A figure who resembles a skinny, faceless Fester Addams (Malik Ibheis) with flashing, lit-up hands gives us our pre-performance instructions like a freaky airline attendant. Later, he gently ushers us round the performances, telling us to sit and stand as if this is some kind of church or court. His presence and actions unify everything, whereas in other promenade pieces this mechanism can feel intrusive.

It is Persephone’s story, however. Her capture by Hades, the ruler of Hell, is imagined here as a love story and she both wants to escape from him and cannot resist him. The two tautly defined performers illustrate this magnificently, in tumble routines from silks and in balletic lifts.

Persephone, though, is no dainty victim: her considerable strength makes the couple’s dynamic more even and, hence, more interesting. Being so close in the fairly small space also adds to our fascination but almost our discomfort too, a confinement of our own. There’s a feeling here of watching a lion prowl his cage in the zoo.

Elsewhere, the visibility of sheer muscle power work well with the Greek mythic origins, where physical prowess was celebrated in all its forms. For example, Hades flexes and parades his muscles at us before attempting to balance precisely on stilts on his hands, reminding us his body itself is as much an aspect of the performance as anything else.

Release is brought out in the ways light is used. Candles are given to shared out amongst the audience so all can take part in a votive scene while pagan dancers brandish flaming candelabra. It is most successfully used through live music from Becks Johnstone, a singer-songwriter whose soaring notes have already filled London tube stations before she found herself here, performing under one. The contrast of her voice – part Portishead, part hymn and folk-like – with the darkness and musty air around her, gives her work added poignancy.

The light at the end of the tunnel for Persephone is she gets to visit Earth once a year to bring warmth in the form of Spring. In these bitter few weeks of winter, we sympathise with her yearnings, yet are glad to be released from the Vaults and the intensity of the night.

The Vaults festival runs from 25 January to 5 March http://www.vaultfestival.com/

 

 

 

Review: Cirque Du Soleil’s Amaluna

Returning again to the Royal Albert Hall, Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Queen Prospera elebrates her daughter Miranda’s coming of age by raising a storm, causing a group of sailors to wash up on the island of Amaluna. One of the sailors, Romeo, saw Miranda and they fell in love at first sight. However, their love is tested by the goddesses and creatures that inhabit the island.

At 2.5 hours long, Amaluna features a host of circus disciplines performed by highly talented artistes from around the world. Highlights include an adrenaline pumping straps act, a mesmerising aerial hoop and hand-balancing sequence featuring a water bowl, and a fast-paced uneven bars act.

For the hoop/handbalancing sequence, Cirque breathes new life into an otherwise standard routine through an aerial hoop performer who sings and contorts at the same time. Our heroine Miranda’s hand-balancing skills are also put to the test when she dips in and out of the water bowl to perform impressive feats that require a high degree of flexibility, strength and balance.

There are moments when Cirque tries to experiment with established forms of circus disciplines. In one act, three aerial poles suspended from the rotating carousel above are mirrored by short Chinese poles attached to the ground. The show gets a point for innovation, but sadly this unique staging only provides a brief moment of wonder through a fast spinning aerial sequence. For the rest of the act, there is minimal action as the performers are limited by the significantly shorter poles, only half the length of a regular Chinese pole.

Unfortunately, Amaluna loses that point when it goes out of its way to give the noble art of clowning a bad name. Echoing the relationship between Romeo and Miranda, the story sees the two clowns playing his manservant and her nanny fall in love. They are chiefly there to provide comic relief and distraction as the set is being changed but sadly their act is often sexist and predictable, a filler providing very little entertainment value and only a few laughs.

Although Amaluna was created in 2012, this doesn’t feel a lot like a contemporary production. The show is still very much adhering to and limited by the formula of success which Cirque has depended on for years. In an attempt to find the lowest common denominator Cirque has opted for a palatable and arguably tired range of visual tropes. The female performers and musicians are dressed in costumes inspired by goth and punk aesthetics, giving off 80s hair and glam rock chick vibes. On the rare occasion that the male performers are not topless, they wear bondage-inspired costumes; our hero is seen removing his top on a number of times in the show apparently only for dramatic effect. Set in a distant and unknown time and space, the limitless possibilities available to the designers of Amaluna is wasted on a vision that feels at times dated and risk-averse.

Technically impressive but conceptually bland, this new production of Amaluna begs the question: how long can Cirque bank on their tried and tested formula of spectacle and comedy, in the context of contemporary circus where up-and-coming performers are continuously pushing the boundaries of their technique and storytelling? All in all, Amaluna was a thoroughly enjoyable performance featuring many jaw-dropping moments but sadly very little food for thought.

 

January’s Craziest Circus Shows In London

If you’re in the capital this month,  you’re perfectly placed to see one of these fabulous circus shows.

 

La Soiree

The double Olivier Award-winning variety show is coming to the run of its latest run in London, the city where it first began. You have until Saturday to check out a company which includes amazing acrobats The English Gents, hilarious contortionist Captain Frodo, high-heeled trapeze artist Jarred Dewey before it leaves its spiritual home.

The final show is on January 8 and more information can be found on the official website. Meantime, here is what Hamish McCann, one half of the Gents, gets up to on the Chinese pole.


Bianco

NoFit State’s Bianco is a unique circus show which is less about sit-and-watch, more about stand-and-gawp. To the sound of a live band, the audience are led around the big top as numerous spectacular acts happen in front, around and above them.

Bianco runs until 22 January on the South Bank and more information can be found on the official website. Here is a taster of their show from their New York run in May 2016.


Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna

The biggest brand name in modern circus touches down again at the Royal Albert Hall with an updated version of their 2016 extravaganza. Loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Amaluna’s storyline revolves around a group of men who, during a storm, find themselves washed up on an island governed by goddesses. Unsurprisingly, love and acrobatics ensue. The show is notable for having a cast that is 70% female.

Amaluna runs from 12 January through to 26 February and more information can be found on the official website. Here is the official trailer.


Becoming Shades

This year’s Vaults Festival features Chivaree Circus who bring their debut show Becoming Shades to one of most exciting performance spaces around under Waterloo station. A re-imagining of the classic myth of Persephone told through contemporary circus, this London-based troupe take inspiration from the words of James Joyce for a production which brings together live music, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime, Becoming Shades is a story of empowerment, love and choices.

The show runs from 25-29 January and more information can be found on the official website. Here is the official trailer.

West London Cabaret Venue The Aeronaut Gutted After NYE Blaze

West Acton cabaret venue The Aeronaut was ablaze last night just half an hour after partygoers saw in the New Year.

The “Circus Spectacular” show featured compere Ria Lina and performers fire burlesquer Aurora Galore, comedy music act Rayguns Look Real Enough, clown Dmitri Hatton and circus artistes Jess Love, Le Renn, Silver Lining’s Niamh O’Reilly and Angeliki Nikolakaki.

Around 340 revellers and 12 staff fled the Aeronaut when the alarm was raised. Online footage obtained by the BBC and The Mirror shows the venue alight as over 70 members of the London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. The LFB rescued six people from a first-floor flat above the pub; the neighbouring police station was evacuated too. Three police officers who assisted in tackling the fire are being treated for smoke inhalation. The London Ambulance Service said it took five patients to hospital suffering from ‘minor injuries’.

The venue has been seriously damaged. An LFB spokesman said, “Half of the ground floor of the building is alight. The first and second floors, including the roof of the three-storey building, have been gutted by the fire.” The blaze was finally brought under control by 5am.

The cause of  the fire is not yet known. The police have said the cause was not believed to be suspicious while the LFB have said it was unknown.

Matt Blair (son of TV celebrity Lionel and part of musical act Rayguns Look Real Enough) wrote on Twitter about the night’s events.

According to The Metro, Blair said that he had heard that ‘some idiot’ used a candle to light a branch on a Christmas tree but he was unable to verify this.

Image: @AbdulYusuf

 

The Inside Story Of Circus Spectacular Bianco

We’ve already told you how much we loved NoFit State Circus’ Bianco. When they invited us to come down to join in their training and meet some of their core crew, we jumped at the chance. Belinda Beveridge reports.


Walking into NoFit State Circus’s Big Top tent and my immediate reaction is “how beautiful!”. In the early afternoon before performance, the empty space is crackling with the atmosphere of things to come.

I’m here for a workshop with Cardiff-based company, NoFit State, whose tent for the contemporary circus show Bianco has landed, spaceship-like, in the Winter Festival at the Southbank. Inside the big top, it is more like one of the gorgeous aliens from new sci-fi flick Arrival: scaffold-like metallic arms stretch upwards, challenging and inviting interaction.

Before I try the counterweight ropes by climbing up these same scaffolds and attempting juggling and hula hooping, I meet Lyndall Merry, head of rigging and performer (trapeze) and the architect of the tent I’m gazing at.

Merry tells me that I am not the only fan of the intricate rigging and I ask where the inspiration for the elaborate setup came from.

The answer he says, is constant collaboration between long-standing NoFit State director, Firenza Guidi, and the riggers. It is Lyndall’s job to translate creative ideas into practice but sometimes they simply don’t happen. This is either because “technical implications far outweigh the benefit of the image” – the classic tension in the creative process between concept and its execution – or, less glamorously, because of safety.

It is this latter aspect that is at the heart of how they operate – something that is not surprising for the dangers inherent in circus – but more interesting is how enthusiastic he is to talk about safety’s role in the creative process.

“There are shows that run on a big production scale and they don’t want their artists to have any information in their brains, because they want their artist to be the best they can possibly be as artists,” he says.

NoFit State takes a contrary view. Their performers must have an in-depth working knowledge of their equipment and the risks across the range of what they are asked to do. During each performance of Bianco, the acrobats double up as performing artists and technical crew: they set up the technical cues, push scenery around the tent and act as counterweights for acrobats.

“The performance exposes the risk.”

This approach to laying bare their show’s innards is to the team an essential aspect of circus, demonstrating the trust and the community element and it is part of the magic for performers and for the audience watching it. “The performance exposes the risk,” explains Lyndall. “And the fact that people do extraordinary things that are risky and but are doing them without bad consequences, that’s the thrill that’s what makes it entertainment.”

“A lot of [our reviews] talk about the feeling of community and support in among the tent that is there between the performers. It’s very much part of the magic of this aesthetic,” he adds.

Circus has actually become safer over the years, even as the creativity and feats have become more inventive. According to technical production manager John Kirk, this is because safety and creativity now work alongside each other whereas, in the past, the two worlds have been very much separate.

For each intricate and considered vision of creativity, there has to be a structure to back it up. Lyndall tells me of examples like “using rigging made of chocolate,” or “making water flow uphill” that he might be asked to create, illustrating the challenge and the ingenuity in his role that is as significant as that required by other members of NoFit State.

Aside from insight into how Bianco’s big top experience has come together, the workshop itself gives me a fine idea of my physical limits and but there’s not enough time to really explore them. We can’t all be in the circus, but we can enjoy feeling part of it in a style that puts us in the thick of it, and which exposes the guts as well as the glory.

Bianco is at London’s Southbank Centre (in the Winter Festival gardens) until 22 January 2017.  https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/117873-nofit-state-circus-presents-bianco-201617

Words: Belinda Beveridge
Image: Tristram Kenton

Circus Review: Bianco Is Pure Poetry And Aesthetic Wonder

NoFit State Circus come to London with their acclaimed show Bianco for the final run of this immense performance piece.

Modern circus was invented in London and almost immediately it spread and evolved around the world quickly moving through Europe and reaching as far as China and Mexico in barely a few decades.

One explanation as to why it moved so rapidly is that, being essentially a non-verbal art form, companies could cross borders and amaze audiences in different countries in a way that theatre was largely unable to. NoFit State Circus – who unquestionably occupy the space of the UK’s leading circus company – having toured the world, now touch down in London to show how far we have come since then in a show that is both very contemporary and yet in subtle ways quite traditional.

Bianco is pure poetry and aesthetic wonder.

The Southbank Centre hasn’t enjoyed circus of this quality since Limbo and of the three big shows in town over Christmas this is by far the most exciting in terms of the circus. Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna misses just about every mark and, while La Soiree is cheeky, fun and full of variety, Bianco is pure poetry and aesthetic wonder.

There is no definite narrative, more a sense of competing voices, tableaus, and personalities all brought together through a shared visual identity. Performers soar above you and around you. The energy of the piece progresses through the intermingling of music, performance and visual symbols. There is a repeating theme of different personalities trapped within the performers.

Language is used in monologues, but in various languages – suggesting that the passion of the words and intonation is far more important than the coherent meaning of them. The language of Bianco is movement and it transcends speech. This is a piece to get lost in and to be amazed by.

The technicalities as beautiful as the theatrics. The rigging is a work of art, which is brought to the fore-front rather than being hidden away. The counter-balancers are as much a part of the show as the performers.

A scen from Bianco by NoFit State Circus @ Big Top, Southbank Centre. Directed by Firenza Guidi. (Opening 23-11-16) ©Tristram Kenton 11/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
Bianco, Southbank Centre

This is an evolved show from the version seen almost four years ago at The Roundhouse and some of the performances feel very much like a continuation of Bianco’s earlier form, for example starting with Lyndall Merry on the swinging trapeze, or Augusts Dakteris wonderful straps finale routine.

Other aspects have also changed. Francois Bouvier on the tightrope is incredible – the most exciting performance on this apparatus I’ve ever seen. He skips, dances, twists and turns across two wires that cross each other. It really is wonderful and replaces an earlier tightrope performance that featured a girl in a red dress – an anomaly in a show where costume is largely made up of white and black – walking the rope in high heels, a cliché that has been vastly overused in productions over the last few years like Cirkopolis’s cyr wheel routine.

This is a show that proves that circus is an art form that can capture the essence of what it is to be human and alive.

This is a show that proves that circus is an art form that can capture the essence of what it is to be human and alive. After next January, NoFit State Circus plan on a year of making new work and Bianco will stop touring so this is the last chance to see this fantastic production. For those who missed out on Bianco at the Roundhouse back in 2013 – buy your tickets now, quickly, before you waste your money on overpriced mulled wine.

This Is Cabaret rating: ★★★★★

Appearing as part of the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival, Bianco continues until 22 January 2017. Tickets are £30-£39.50. Please see the official website for availability and show details.

All images: Tristram Kenton