Pros: Intimate show with great power on display.
Cons: Might have benefited from having more of a narrative thread, but this is nit-picking.
A certain large circus is in London at the moment. Cirque du Soleil is circus in black tie; the pumping music conceals the squealing of the unicycle wheels, the pounding of feet making heavy lands. The very human elements of the seemingly superhuman acts are hidden. If, as I do, you like your circus with a human touch, get yourself to Soho Theatre. No Show is different.
The opening of No Show is a dance number with flips and tumbles to the jaunty tune of Pistol Packin’ Mama by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. With the candy-stripe costumes, the smiles and the spread legs, the opening number emphasises that this is what we’re used to seeing when women perform in circus. The quintet of performers highlight that for all they are capable of physically, what they, as women, are asked to do when they want to join the big league, is smile and keep it pretty. Female circus performers aren’t good, they’re good ‘for a girl.’ No Show presents five female circus artists performing their best feats on their own terms, thus making a gentle political point whilst being funny, entertaining, and awe-inspiring to watch.
The small space of downstairs at the Soho Theatre lets the audience hear every thump, every footfall, every snatched breath. All the effort it takes to make what is difficult look easy is right up in your face. Skills on display are Cyr wheel, hair-hanging (which I’d never seen before), tumbling, balancing, and, last but not least, imaginary trapeze. Elements are explained. We are enlightened as to the dangers the Cyr wheel performer risks: crushed toes, broken ankles, concussion. No skill on display is easy. Years go into making it look easy.
The show makes the point that in circus, as in so many disciplines, women are no less capable, but they are less visible. They train no less than men, but the men are asked to do the power tricks. Women ‘rarely get to tumble.’ Why don’t women, who put in the same amount of training as men, get to show off what their bodies too are capable of? Because what women know that what they can do, and what is asked or expected of them are two different things, and therein lies the frustration. No Show feels timely. My hope is that it won’t feel timely for much longer.
Presented by: Ellie Dubois, with Francesca Hyde, Kate McWilliam, Michelle Ross, Alice Gilmartin and Camille Taylor.
Director & Devisor: Ellie Dubois
Producer: Nicola Lawton
Booking Link: https://sohotheatre.com/shows/no-show/
Booking Until: 9th February 2019