Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At NoFit State

No Fit State Circus- ImMortal2 , Barry Waterfront , May 6, 2005
this review first appeared in the ~Western Mail

Take one of Wales’s most innovative long-established physical performance groups and put it together with one of Wales’s most exciting directors and what do you get ? Put another way, take new circus and get an Italian intellectual to write and direct it and what results ? Either way, it’s ImMortal2, a show like you’ve never seen before.

NoFit State Circus have been around for a dozen years or so, when the likes of Ra Ra Zoo, Cirque du Soleil and Archaos were redefining what circus was, using familiar techniques to create a spectacular new kind of theatre; Firenza Guidi has been making theatre in Wales since 1989, lecturing and writing and running Cardiff-based Elan Wales, a remarkable performance outfit that knows no national boundaries.

Linking circus skills with a very cerebral kind of theatre is not quite the most likely creative marriage – but both NoFit State and Ms Guidi have specialised in the unpredictable.

Those who have enjoyed the tumbling, fire-eating, high-wire work and clowning of Cardiff’s own circus company will not be disappointed with ImMortal2 (ImMortal was a relatively low-profile first version that impressed those who saw it last year), and neither will those who have been entranced and intrigued by Ms Guidi’s work with Elan, the Welsh College of Music and Drama, the National Youth Theatre and the other varied groups she has inspired over the years.

So you have a remarkable bungee routine, an erotic aerial pas de deux, energetic trapeze tricks and a camp transvestite juggler alongside the Elan signature montage-style scenes involving prams and handbags, accordionists, manic laughter and nostalgic imagery, in a show that can appeal to everyone from kids to demanding theatregoers.

Straightforward circus acts are mixed in with a narrative about new arrivals at a strange clearing-house for souls (hence the show’s title). This is the slaughterhouse, we are told, a place where human beings have a last chance to live life to the full.

Does the merger work ? As spectacle, yes. As drama, no.

Mr Guidi’s productions are never simple but involve complex ideas of memory, dreams, desire and happiness – an acquaintance with contemporary philosophical theory is always useful – and there’s a lengthy and fascinating synopsis to go with ImMortal2, but I can’t see many getting through it before the gauze screens in the Big Top collapse and allow us to enter the action.

It’s well worth it, because it gives the show a content without which it is really a rather whacky piece of new circus – highly enjoyable, never dull, but not quite the story of a group of people who have their final opportunity to taste happiness before they achieve immortality, to recognise the fragments of life that constitute happiness.

Every so often, if you read the projected words here and there, catch the amplified speech, join the dots in the action, you might just get an idea of what ImMortal2 is all about – but you probably won’t, because you’ll be wandering around the space, enjoying the live music, marvelling at the skills, revelling in the colours and costumes, smiling at the gags.

But you will feel you are in a another world, somewhere maybe in Central Europe, at another time, part of a performance that draws on old traditions of commedia dell’arte, jongleurs and minstrels, burlesque and variety, a magical world between fantasy and reality.

Maybe the narrative basis of ImMortal2 is, despite the title, irrelevant, serving only to create the surreal world when anything can happen but where a search for moments of pleasure is the reason for being – maybe it just gives an extravaganza a style, a structure and points of reference, but not a story we are meant to follow.

Fine. I enjoyed the extravaganza, I was engaged by the skills, I was uplifted by the magic. But I did also wish that all those ideas that underlay the action had surfaced now and again to take us on that promised journey.

# ImMortal2 is in Aberystwyth May 13-22 and Colwyn Bay May27-June 5

Reviewed by: David Adams

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