December 19, 2016

Christmas Comes Early: NoFit State Circus Presents BIANCO for the Southbank Centre's Winter Festival

Delia Ceruti and Joachim Aussibal get tied up in NoFit State's BIANCO, photo courtesy of Seventh Wave
             NoFit State Circus has brought its Big Top tent to London as part of the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival with a new version of its promenade show BIANCO.

             BIANCO takes the circus back to basics, in an environment that belongs to the performers who occupy the space just as much as the rapt audience who follows each heart-stopping move within it. The show is fluid, inviting the undulating audience to move forward to take a closer look and then step back to fully appreciate the beauty.

             Founded in 1986, Cardiff-based NoFit State delivers contemporary circus. The company is one of the few that still tours like a traditional circus, with everyone travelling and living together, as well as helping to put up the Big Top and operate the rigging systems in the show.

Photo courtesy of Tristram Kenton
             After Lyndall Merry, 32, from Wales completed circus training in Bristol, it was a life on the road doing what he had always dreamed of doing – trapeze. “I love performing. I get a real thrill out of performing. I love it when you’ve got a really good crowd who are giving you lots of energy. That feeling is incredible when you’re on point and everything’s easy and you’re giving to them and they’re giving back to you.”

             As well as being a trapeze artist in BIANCO, Merry is also the head rigger, which means that he designs and installs all of the flying systems. As the performers are suspended in the air, their fellow performers work in the shadows to support them with each smooth ascent and descent.

Danilo de Campos Pacheco, photo courtesy of  Maike Schulz
             Merry says, “People anticipate the hours of practice and training that go on to hone the disciplines and the skills, but it’s the technical community aspects that people don’t quite realise. They imagine that there’s a team of technical people, a team of laborers, that do the hard work, but actually, we do it.”

             If silly clowns and gimmicky balloon tricks are what you’re after, this is not the show for you. Directed by Firenza Guidi, BIANCO is both rough around the edges and tenderly executed, supported by an incredible live band.

Cecilia Zucchetti, photo courtesy of Seventh Wave
             A juggling pin goes astray here and there, while filled wine glasses wobble in the hands (and feet) of a contortionist, but the acts are done so deftly that I begin to wonder if the cast is just playing tricks on us. The contortionist in question is Ella Rose, 22, who originally hails from Australia and has joined the company for the London season of BIANCO.

             Rose points out that she was really bendy as a child, which predisposed her to contortion. Growing up in Albury, Australia, she toured with a children’s circus called the Flying Fruit Fly Circus School during her primary and secondary school years. She notes that the hard work came in when she had to learn how to be strong and how to control her body without hurting it.

Ella Rose during her contortion hand balancing act in BIANCO, photo courtesy of Tristram Kenton
             When asked what people would be surprised to know about her line of work, she laughs, “Maybe how many bruises I have that you can’t see. I think particularly for some of the work that I do, the feedback that I get afterwards is, ‘You look so beautiful and you make it look so easy’ and then I’m like, ‘My legs are six different shades of blue.’”

             There’s intentional mayhem as well as artful precision within the show. Francois Bouvier nimbly glides across the tight wire, slinking down into the splits, and Delia Ceruti rises and falls on a rope suspended in the air.

             The finale is dominated by Augusts Dakteris, who uses the strength of his body to maneuver around aerial straps, bringing the audience to a standstill. Just when I think the scene couldn’t get any more magical, it begins to snow – Christmas has come early.

Augusts Dakteris in the middle of a snowstorm, photo courtesy of Andrew Billington
            BIANCO has been seen by over a quarter of a million people in 11 different countries during its four-year run. The last time it was performed in London was in 2013 at Camden’s Roundhouse and London is now the last leg of the show before NoFit State begins research in 2017 for a new show.

             Merry says that the company has been working with the promenade style of show for 15 years, but the next goal is to create a seated show that still provides an immersive atmosphere and the same level of audience interaction.

Enni Lymi, photo courtesy of Tristram Kenton

             BIANCO will run at the Big Top, Southbank Centre, until 22 January 2017. Circus workshops, pre-show Q&A's, and seasonal performances are all available. Find out more and book tickets here. Although it is a promenade show, seats are available on request. Take advantage of the bar inside the tent, or outside at the Winter Festival, where you can warm up your hands over a fire while gazing into a big, beautiful London Eye.