Review: Lexicon, Roundhouse

Entering into the large arena I look up and take in the frames, wires and rings which fill the space. TOOT. An out of tune trumpet sounds in my ear. A band of lovable reprobates form behind me with a cacophony of syncopated notes coming from their instruments. ‘Okay’, I think, ‘they’re trying to create a theme of chaos’ – I am however irritated by this fanfare. 

Lexicon, created by NoFit State Circus and directed by Firenza Guidi, describes itself as ‘physical poetry’. The first image is that of a classroom, paper being thrown across the set and one, let’s say ‘nerdy’ boy, at the back wearing a bobble hat is in his own little world. But, this classroom does not stay on the ground, it rises into the air like a huge sleigh and the students writhe and tumble in their seats and stand on their desks. 

The audience is primarily adults, however, the children scattered about are loving the atmosphere because what kid doesn’t love a bit of (highly technical and organised) chaos. The tone varies beautifully between mesmerising beauty, jaw dropping stunts, and moments of humour. 

A particular credit goes to Sam Goodburn who is a goofy boy much teased by other characters, but who can perform some mean tricks on unicycles; one involving putting on trousers over some fabulous pink boxers, and another where he wheels over some upturned wine glasses. 

A particularly humorous recurring skit is Davide Salodini wearing a kilt running about on a big green ball with his clarinet – simple, but his physical comedy is something that cannot be taught, he has brilliant timing.

Beautiful images include a man spinning on ropes whilst managing to throw a serenely gliding paper airplane, couples spinning through the air on wires with umbrellas with ‘snow’ (white paper) falling around them, and an aerial ring performer tumbling through ‘water’ (a dropped gauze with aquatic projections).

What holds this eclectic piece together is the chemistry of the performers, whether that be in the choreographed pieces of movement to cover set changes with ever changing interactions between cast members, or in the tender moments created by choral singing. There are ever changing performers on stage and providing vocals and instrumental accompaniment. This truly is a company. 

Yet, reflecting throughout the show it is notable how the most impressive feats are done by men, women performers often physically sweep the stage beneath them and there are a couple of particularly dragging routines performed by women which feel, unfortunately, like an insulting afterthought to cover up the gender imbalance in the longer performances. 

Another thing that strikes me is usually in circus performances there is a sort of storyline, often ludicrous in nature, but one there all the same, and this helps carry the audience through the numerous set changes. For me, a lack of one here means that, in moments of lull, boredom arises more easily because there is no thread tying the piece together. 

This piece is, however, fun. I grin and am amazed; whilst some stunts become a bit repetitive towards the end, have I had a good time? But, of course.

Lexicon is playing at the Roundhouse until 18 January. For more information and tickets, visit the Roundhouse website.