No Fit State Circus return to the Roundhouse with Bianco, their first show since tabù, their 2009 smash hit.
Anarchic, pure and powerful, No Fit State Circus’s new show Bianco will open your eyes to the potential for contemporary circus in this country in the 21st century. If you still see circus as lions and elephants, bumbling clowns and girls in skimpy costumes then you must see this show if only to cast away that image forever. What they have done here is not so much re-invent the wheel as take off the shiny hubcaps, strip down the body panels and open it up so we can see the nuts and bolts, the mechanics and workings in movement.
No Fit make full use of the Roundhouse’s unusual central space with a complex rigging system that is celebrated and not hidden away. The truss is lit up, so too are the performers acting as counterweights for the aerialists. The aerial hoops are untaped steel rings, the carabiners and straps are plain. Everything is very present, very real and human. This makes the beauty of the movements all the more true and breathtaking in their execution. There are no tricks here, no slight of hand or mis-direction and as a consequence this is a very honest show – well thought out – a truly beautiful piece of theatre.
Costumes are monochrome, narrative non-linear, impressions and tableaus cross over each other. Why are we here? Who are these people? Does it matter? Captivating from the first instant to the final act, a lone trapeze artist shrouded in falling white flakes, this is a show that doesn’t leave you a moment to get comfortable. Time slips by. What happens here will stay with you and it’s worth holding on to.
The live music by Gareth Jones and his band heightens the tension as it slips through genres drawing us forward through the show. It too is barely contained and rides on the edge, ready to fall apart at the right moment. A blond haired girl in a red dress and high heel shoes enters the centre of the arena. The distortion on the guitars throbs harder as she climbs up onto a tightrope and shimmies across. Her movements are sexy but definite. She pulls off her dress, her shoes, her wig, and with it all social constraints.
There is a lot of undressing and hair-undoing in this show. Performers constantly express an inability to deal with the mundane and routine. This is told through several languages, which you are not expected to fully comprehend. It is the single moment we are chasing not the detail and there are many many beautiful moments to choose from.
If a criticism had to be made, there is one point where there are four hula-hoop dancers on separate podiums. The movements are not choreographed or well thought out and from some of the performers really quite basic. It seems like they are merely a device, a distraction, while the apparatus is re-arranged. Whereas, later in the show having four aerial hoop performers at similar points framing the cyr wheel performer in the centre beautifully works to create symmetry and cohesion, this is the one part of the show that doesn’t seem to make sense.
Aerial strap performer August Dakteris shared with us after the show how he became involved with No Fit Circus. Apparently he saw one of their productions five years ago and when the show finished he couldn’t leave without asking one of the crew what he needed to do to join the company. With no prior experience he started training. Five years after his first No Fit experience, Dakteris now has one of the main solo spots in Bianco and is living his dream.
This is a story of how a single show can inspire you to change the course of your whole life and we should be grateful if more shows could reach that place inside of ourselves. Utterly compelling, No Fit State Circus rightly claim their place as pioneers at the forefront of contemporary circus.
Bianco. Performed by No Fit State Circus. The Roundhouse, London NW1 8EH. £10-29.50. Until 27 April.
Photo credits: David Levene for the first and second picture and the cover image; Steve Tanner for the third picture.