An enlightening show that tells the untold story of circus performers, No Show takes you through several circus acts in a vaudeville style. But what gives it its edge is the narration in-between that describes the real life of a performer.
Five women walk on stage and quickly show you that they are not just ‘five ordinary people’, but agile acrobats that can tumble and trick fantastically. Their first act is an impressive handstand balance by Alice Gilmartin that shows pure strength and poise. But they make light of this difficult challenge by narrating Gilmartin to stop talking to the audience and do better tricks. This is a nod towards circus performers constantly smiling, and yet never being able to say anything. This comically reoccurs throughout the evening as the tricks get more daring and surprising to see.
Camille Toyer demonstrates a gruesome retelling of the damage that can be done on a cyr wheel (a human sized steel hoop). Broken toes, dislocated shoulders and concussion are just a hand slip away. But Toyer effortlessly performs without mistake and executes a beautifully complex routine that left me spellbound.
The whole show is packed full of captivating moments and everything the acrobats perform is highly impressive. However the transitions and script writing in between these gems feel clunky and obvious, particularly when Kate McWilliam describes the sexism in this industry. This could have been a very poignant moment; however it just scratches the surface and feels like an easy way to describe the injustice she feels. No Show is put together in a very ‘fringey’ style which at times feels homemade and a bit clunky. However this is not the main event of the evening and the spectacular tricks make up for the lack of professional smoothness.
The stand out of the evening is most certainly Francesca Hyde being lifted up by aerial ropes from just her hair. She attaches a metal hoop into her bun and demonstrates an elegant and lilting dance where she floats off the floor. Her counterbalance is a box of water that her peers control as they playfully lift her up and dodge the swinging box. When Hyde is first lifted you see shock and vulnerability that feels like you are watching torture. It’s not long however before you forget about the pain she is going through, and instead delight in the beauty and accuracy these performers have. This is all simply done with a smile instead of a grimace- I certainly know I’ll think more about the pain performers are going through next time I’m at the circus.
The music jumps between soft contemporary tunes and old vaudeville classics which complement the show well. I especially enjoyed the random moments that Hyde plays her accordion that felt very in keeping with the slightly old fashioned style of the show.
Another delightful moment is when the five girls sit on stage and simply eat a jam doughnut each, for a whole song. This moment hit the nail on the head for me as nothing more was needed to be said; these are athletes fuelling themselves for their hard training and they don’t need to (as does no one else) comply with the ongoing body issues that surround society today.
This mixture of comedy, acrobatic excellence and narration doesn’t quite gel together- even though each act is fun to watch. The acrobats are all stunning, well trained in their art and are an intriguing insight into the danger of the glamorous circus. But it left me wanting something more poignant and cleanly put together. Nonetheless it is a mesmerizing set of circus acts.
No Show is playing at the Soho Theatre until 9 February, for more information and tickets see the Soho Theatre website.