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.
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