NoFit State Circus
Acrobats don’t sweep and twirl in high-cut leotards for this classy, vintage circus ensemble, but literally fall out of the Roundhouse’s vast dome like kilt-clad angels. In Lexicon, NoFit State Circus's latest offering, falling and catching is all part of the show’s homespun, quirky, high-octane fun.
Entertainment opens onto performers seated behind lines of Victorian school desks creating general antiestablishment havoc, banging closed desks, shouting poetic homilies to the audience, throwing paper planes at each other.
There’s much tomfoolery in the stalls as one clownish pupil makes himself known and turns out to be the leader of the live band, while desks are then hoisted upwards in formation towards the Roundhouse rafters, hovering mid-air, like a floating Viking ship. This is powerful imagery that resonates as the night’s buffoonery unfolds.
Highlights include a biscuit-munching, glasses-clad, gawky unicyclist (Sam Goodburn) who replaces wool hat and specs for Men in Black-style shades and sharp suit, all the while cycling, to be met by a slack-wire artist who contorts herself on suspended wire, breaking into splits with nothing more than an umbrella as a prop, while the kilted chap who can walk, skip and hop on one of those colourful balls that remind me of birthing balls emits a ripple of delight from our side of the Roundhouse.
There's also an excellent performance from a fabulous fire juggler that has my daughter fixed in horror as he sets himself alight, fanning out coattails while juggling batons of fire and fire-fighting flame-ridden desks.
Unquestionably, though, the most heart-in-mouth moment of the evening comes from the mystery man on the tightrope dressed like Dracula in sunglasses, achieving the unthinkable feat of sitting on a chair while balancing on a tightrope.
Keeping high energy up in between the acts, the ensemble join the band with an instrument of choice, shout absurdities and spill out from the stalls onto the stage, throwing each other through the air, falling into each other’s arms or zooming round with the madcap energy reserved for kindergarten playtime on bicycles, unicycles or balloons. We are constantly in touch with the players who pop up from all corners of the auditorium.
Director Firenza Guidi nails a finely balanced show between detailed choreography with contemporary dance elements and circus feats so that they sit within a flimsy narrative functioning mostly to build atmosphere and high spirits. We may not be following a story, but it's nonetheless enthralling.
Live musical accompaniment, kooky, affable clownish poetic humour and nail-biting feats make for a fun and lively night of circus with physical theatre as its backbone.
Reviewer: Rachel Nouchi