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Contemporary Circus comes to town
Circus for many still conjures up images of performing animals and clowns with red noses, but consider those ideas banished in the forever evolving world of contemporary circus.
Welsh company NoFit State Circus are the UK’s most celebrated contemporary circus company. This talented troupe of artists and musicians have just opened their show LEXICON at London’s iconic Roundhouse having brought previous performed their acclaimed show BIANCO here in 2013. This time the company has adopted a traditional style with an ‘in-the-round’ stage and seating area, they have made brilliant use of the expansive height of the Roundhouse with a huge metal structure and elaborate rigging apparatus attached to the rafters from which the performers precariously suspend themselves.
Director Firenza Guidi’s anarchic production for NoFit State Circus invites you into a world of wonder and exploration. As you take your seat the artists are mingling in the aisles, warming up their instruments, putting on their makeup and inviting the audience to participate in their game; the art of misbehaving.
The initial set creates a classroom with a series of old fashioned desks and a motley crew of young misfits just waiting to rebel and longing to be seen. A teacher in the form of a tightrope walker whets your appetite and gives you a taste of what’s to come as he perilously makes his way across the stage high up in the rafters.
The show makes a firm nod to and a daring take into the world of traditional circus; it’s bursting with classic tricks and turns with an added touch of chaos, marvel, and spectacle. With no real narrative to speak of, it flows and meanders with physical poetry which leads you from one turn to another, classic aerial acts, juggling, ropes, trapeze, amusing clowning and a some marvellous unicycling on bikes of every shape, size, and description. With desks that become bumper cars, it gives a sense of childlike wonder, an adventure playground, Peter Pan’s Neverland perhaps?
Costumes are a little stereotypical with girls frolicking in white frocks whilst skipping and balancing and boys dressing up in dinner suits and shades. The charming clown Sam Goodburn even gets dressed in one whilst riding a unicycle! And having started out as the class geek he has miraculously transformed into a super cool kid and impressively cycles along a line of glasses.
The atmospheric live band is very much part of the show, playing an eclectic and lively mix of 70’s folk-rock and reggae and keeping the tempo going.
The second act takes a slightly darker turn and incorporates a bit of melodrama. I loved the daring fire juggler Luke Hallgarten, who tricked the audience several times into thinking he had caught fire to himself, and swinging trapeze artist Lyndall Merry did an awesome turn. A giant netted tunnel provided an evocative curtain for a female hand balancer and for the finale, five performers fly through the air with parasols in a flurry of snowflakes looking as pretty as a picture.
LEXICON offers a good night out for all the family with a variety of traditional circus acts performed in an expressive modern context; not quite extraordinary enough to keep me really hooked but its undoubtedly an evening full of edgy fun.
The NoFit State Circus show LEXICON is showing at the Roundhouse Chalk Farm Rd, Camden Town, London NW1 8EH
Friday 3 – Saturday 18 January
Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinees at 2pm
Sunday performances at 4pm