Bianco at Southbank CentreCultureTheatre
The lively, activity-packed Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre is already under way, and one of the highlights this year is Bianco: Here Be Dragons, a collaboration between contemporary circus company NoFit State and director Firenza Guidi. The two-hour display has all the fun acts one might expect to see, from juggling to tightrope acrobatics, but there is a strong focus on aerial choreographies, some of which are truly impressive.
The distinguishing feature of the show is that there is no seating and viewers are free to move around. This usually suggests that a piece is interactive and that the action moves from place to place, but in this case everything happens in the centre and up in the air. When the focus is at ground level, it is difficult to see for most of the crowd, so the only explanation for having a standing audience is that it is more convenient for the constantly changing setup.
The set consists of large scaffolding that is moved around at the end of each act to create new settings, such as a swimming pool or a party. Perhaps due to the large space and limited visibility on the ground, the potential for audience interaction goes completely unexplored.
NoFit State is clearly a close-knit group and they seem to be having a great time while performing. This high energy, however, is only partially extended to the spectators who, standing down below, are never made to feel part of the celebration.
The performers have incredible skills but when they get things right, which does not happen every single time, they look extremely pleased with themselves and cheer. This is perhaps done for comic effect, but it does mean that the acrobatics do not always come across as effortless. In terms of visual appeal, the show is not as aesthetically striking as it promises to be, aside from the final snowstorm act and a couple of pieces in the second half featuring sumptuous dresses.
Bianco professes to be about “the multitude of personas within every human being”, but it is difficult to detect this in the show. The acts do not gel together either in theme or style, and while entertaining in their own right, it seems far-fetched to attach a philosophical meaning to them. All in all this is an exciting display of talent and a fitting, fun experience for the festive period.
Bianco is at Southbank Centre from 23rd November 2016 until 22nd January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Bianco here: