Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

An impoverished third incarnation

ImMortal

nofitstate circus , Barry , May-26-07
ImMortal by nofitstate circus This review first appeared in the Western Mail

Well, we’ve had ImMortal. We’ve had ImMortal2. Now it’s – well, it’s back to ImMortal again.

Cardiff’s NoFit State Circus obviously realise they’re on to a winner with this ImMortal branding and, indeed, if you haven’t seen previous versions of this remarkable show then you’re probably going to be knocked out by this mix of circus skills, funky music, performance art, light-show and hip ambience.

But what you won’t get this time around is the magic ingredient that made the last show a hit at Edinburgh and an international success. Just what it is, is difficult to say but crucially it gets down to the fact that it had some kind of narrative, albeit a great sprawling and generally incomprehensive narrative, and a distinctively European theatricality.

In other words, it was concept circus. A spectacular with a story and it didn’t really matter too much if you couldn’t follow the story (as I couldn’t, I admit) although it must have been more rewarding if you did. The mind behind the concept was Firenza Guidi, the Cardiff-based Italian theatremaker who runs the international ELAN theatre company,

She mixed straightforward circus acts with a the philosophical allegory of new arrivals at a strange clearing-house for souls, a slaughterhouse, a place where human beings have a last chance to live life to the full. In other words this crazy circus is where people have their final opportunity to taste happiness before they achieve immortality, to recognise the fragments of life that constitute happiness.

That was then and this is now, however, and I could find little in this year’s staging to
suggest any real content apart from the ending – which, without any lead-up to it, just looks pretty pointless, a kind of reference to Kubrick’s Space Oddyssey.

Whether Ms Guidi had much to do with this production I don’t know as there were, at the show’s premiere in The Silver Spaceship in Barry, no programmes. NoFit State Circus describe it as rebuilt, reworked and recast but they don’t mention deleting the storyline. Or (at least when I saw it) the whacky installations. Or the projected text.

What remains is a highly entertaining circus with the added frisson of it being a promenade performance – the audience is welcomed into the big top and then encouraged to wander round (safety permitting) and see the performers close-up.

This has the curious effect of de-eroticising the otherwise quite sexy nature of this kind of aerial work (unless, of course, thick body-stockings and harnesses do it for you) and, truth be told, making some of the acts seem rather ordinary. There was really nothing very new in the routines, despite a couple of impressive turns – which brings us back to the extra value that ImMortal2 offered, that theatricality and quirky collection of visual imagery, that just isn’t here.

The company do rush around a platform making lots of noise on the metal grid and I suspect that there were some words spoken that didn’t make it into the PA or just got lost in the amplification, but for me at least this was an impoverished version of a fascinating and potentially very sensually and cerebrally rich project.

Reviewed by: David Adams

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