‘No Show’ review
Time Out says
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This irreverent circus show reveals the sweat behind the sequins
On a bare black stage, a tensely beaming performer in a black and white striped leotard is playing an accordion. Four other performers in similar outfits join her, their faces locked in rictus grins. The nervy sense of artifice – of being several shows down in a run but having to pretend that this night, like every night, is the first night – has crystallised so densely you could grind it up and sprinkle it over popcorn. Cirque du Soleil this is not.
In fact, ’No Show’s visible expression of labour is one of its most charming features. The self-aware quintet pull off some fabulous tricks, but their irresistible patter to the audience both exposes and illuminates the circus arts and provides a peephole into the life of a circus artist.
Camille Toyer’s exquisite cyr wheel demonstration is drily narrated by Kate McWilliam, who lists the hideous injuries Toyer could suffer if she missteps. McWilliam herself, in a tumbling sequence, describes her struggles in the male-dominated field of circus acrobatics and the onus on female performers to look ethereal and get their splits out. Alice Gilmartin’s stunning handstand set is undercut by Francesca Hyde and Michelle Ross in a vicious pastiche that sees them taking on the role of pushy directors, negging Alice into pulling off harder and harder stunts. Though it’s not always clear what level of confession and reality we’re operating at, there is nevertheless an engaging sense of behind-the-scenes immediacy.
But for all the knowing irony and the comedic emphasis on grunts of effort and visible strain, ‘No Show’ is also a piece about the great art that comes of practice. When Michaella Fee’s lighting washes the stage a mystical blue and Hyde pulls off a gasp-inducing hair-hanging ballet, the audience are left with the sense that these hard-working, hard-stretching women have transcended physical limits. The fact that, afterwards, they collapse with the effort and wipe tears of pain and relief from their eyes, or have to sit down and eat a doughnut, only serves to underline it. Funny, impressive and running headfirst into failure, ‘No Show’ positively cartwheels with charisma.