No Show at Soho Theatre
The Circus is a magical world of show, offering death-defying stunts, impressive acrobatics and seemingly superhuman skills. As audiences, we are lured into this engaging environment whereby almost anything is possible. In an age of unlimited entertainment options, our expectations only grow higher. We crave risk and danger and expect to enjoy a carefully choreographed and tirelessly rehearsed show. There is certainly incredible talent on display here and we are treated to the kind of impressive stunts we’d expect to see in the circus; however, writer and deviser Ellie Dubois delves deeper. More concerned with deconstructing the glitzy smiles and sequins in order to reveal the true cost of aiming for perfection, No Show makes for a unique theatrical experience that has something to say.
Five female performers are playing on their own terms, shunning spectacle and favouring flaws over flawlessness. It’s not hard to see why the play enjoyed a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe. The Soho Theatre provides an intimate home with the small space emphasising the fact that this isn’t circus as we’ve seen it before but rather a stripped-down analysis of the inner workings of putting on an impressive show.
The cast exhibit superhuman ability with their impressive acrobatics and stunts but Dubois ensures we see the pain endured by these women beneath the false smiles and bravado. Each act is broken down and dissected with the risks made obvious and failures frequently occurring. Here we have a cyr wheel demonstration, expertly performed by Camille Toyer but humorously described by Kate McWilliam, who reels off numerous potential injuries that could be caused. Alice Gilmartin offers us an incredible handstand but is at the same time berated by Francesca Hyde in the guise of pushy director who still expects more from her performer. Whilst this makes for some uncomfortable viewing, it’s done with a light-hearted touch and an appealing sense of raw honesty throughout.
This is circus for 2019, incorporating subtle politics alongside genuine show-stopping stunts and ultimately providing us with warm, honest, character-driven drama. Running at just over an hour, this is an energetic ride that leaves us satisfied, uplifted and with a new perspective of the pain that goes into perfection. If you’re seeking spectacle with subtext this is one show not to be missed.
Photos: Chris Reynolds
No Show is at Soho Theatre from 22nd January until 9th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.