I saw NoFit State Circus once before, at the London International Mime Festival in the South Bank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. An auditorium of this style does no justice to the magic that can be worked in a Big Top. This time round, as before, I found myself yearning for story to connect the spectacular circus acts. Bianco, however, has shown me how powerful an art form circus can be, full of visual splendour and spectacularly skilled performances.
Bianco’s audience enters the Big Top stationed on Hove Lawns into a lively atmosphere. Performers clamber over a scaffold made of an interconnected aerial rig – which the show reveals to be a genius piece of design – covered in gauze. We encircle the excitedly shouting performers and, as the lights go down, the gauze drops and we are invited into this extraordinary circus show.
A live band accompanies Bianco adding to the electric atmosphere that fills the space with every act of aerial, juggling, tightrope (in heels!) … I could go on and on. This show is highly charged, immensely skilled and powerful but it’s just too long. At two hours and 20 minutes, including an interval, I found myself leaving with neck ache and a significant lapse in concentration. There’s only so much ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ a person can do, a limit to the level of unconnected, equally spectacular and skilled circus acts you can take before your focus starts to wane.
I headed into the interval after a stunningly beautiful and emotionally charged straps performance feeling elated and inspired. This act demonstrated how circus can take its audience somewhere, tell a story and really make them feel. To stick with having no over-arching story the show may have benefitted from ending here, with a tribute to the beauty and power of circus art. However, I think to add some sense of narrative would elevate a show such as this to something phenomenal.
To its credit, NoFit State does toy with an element of story. Narration at the opening mentions the setting as a travellers’ camp at night, and something about this being the night the elephant came. At least I think that’s what they said. Such narration happens sporadically throughout and performers occasionally speak during acts, they are wearing microphones but it’s challenging to make out anything that is said.
Despite its lack of coherent story, however, Bianco is spectacular in every regard. Go and you will find yourself marvelling at the skill and sheer strength of every act, whilst enjoying the immersive environment created by the fantastically designed and engineered set, sound and lighting. This is a well put together, if lengthy, show and a great night out – I just think with more presence allowed to story it could be something even more dazzling. This is a Brighton Fringe experience not to be missed.
Bianco is playing Brighton Fringe until 1 June. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website. Photography by David Levene.