A circus based in Cardiff? With no ring master? And no animals? My children’s current obsession with the film “The Greatest Showman” meant that Rhydian,10, and Megan, 8, struggled to grasp the concept of NoFit State when I tried to explain to them what we were about to see. Twelve year old Nia had been lucky enough to see the company’s previous production, Bianco, when it came to the Millennium Centre a few years ago and therefore had a clearer idea of what to expect when we entered the NoFit State Big Top in Cardiff Bay to see, or perhaps more accurately, experience, their latest production, Lexicon.
I needn’t have worried. As soon as we entered the Big Top the energy was palpable with the performers mingling with the audience. Unlike in Bianco, where the audience followed the promenade-style circus on foot, the audience was seated in the round meaning that everyone had a clear view of the show at all times. The children were captivated from start to finish, as was I, and I really cannot recommend this show highly enough. When asked to describe the show the words “exciting” “challenging” and “fun” figured highly in the children’s reviews and, in perhaps the greatest compliment that a ten-year-old boy can bestow, Rhydian said that “none of it was boring”!!
The theme of the show is said to be mischief and rule-breaking. In all honesty I could not spot a clear narrative running through the show but the individual set pieces were so powerful, with each well able to stand on it’s own, that this wasn’t really a problem. Even the more “low-key” performances, such as the diabolo display and unicycling were brilliantly executed. Interestingly when I asked Nia what she thought were the strengths of the show she said that she had enjoyed it because there was “a creative story behind each act” – perhaps she had a better grasp of the narrative than her mum!
The show managed to combine laugh-out-loud moments with draw-droppingly beautiful moments. Many of the elements of a more traditional circus – fire-juggling, trapeze artistry, tight-rope walking – were on display here but elevated to another level by the choreography which gave it a more balletic feel than that of a traditional circus performance.
Certainly the humour of the show appealed to the children. Rhydian noted that the performers “interacted with the audience a lot and everyone had the giggles” while Megan said that “most of the acts had funny parts and amazing parts”. There was plenty of clowning around and we all identified the unicycle performer as one of our favourites – we were all in fits of giggles as he tried to dress himself (trousers included!) while riding a perilously high unicycle and we all willed him on as he unicycled across a row of upturned glasses.
Undoubtedly one of the strengths of the show was the stunning atmospheric score performed by a live band with singers placed at different points around the Big Top for different sequences. Sitting near the band, Megan had to cover her ears at one point as the music was so loud but to me the music was such an integral part of the performance that it would be difficult to imagine the show working without it.
As the children practiced their handstands against the bedroom wall this morning they all told me that they wanted to join NoFit State. Clearly the show had managed to capture their imaginations – high praise indeed!