Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Immortal

No Fit State Circus , Pontypridd , May-25-04
I have been visiting Ynyshangharad Park in Pontypridd for close on fifty years and had most experiences imaginable there, from the salubrious to the salacious. Itís always been a space for childhood delights, adolescent adventures and sheer and simple all-age serenity. No Fit State Circusís latest production ImMortal managed to provide an arena for all these elements and give me one of my most indelible memories in Ponty Park so far.

Pontypridd is the first staging post of a summer tour of the UK and this extraordinary troupe of ridiculously talented performers, musicians and artisans have taken up residence in the park for the last month.. The centrepiece of their exotic tented village is their new spaceship of a big tent, which has landed on the site of Denzil Danterís perennial funfair. The small fortune a family would spend on the bilious spills and thrills of Denzilís rides would be a small price to pay for the visceral and visual rollercoaster that waits inside this fabulous structure.

Director, Firenza Guidi has created a world that is half Aladdinís cave half purgatory where we are invited to explore the shadows, enter the light and bear witness to a cavalcade of acrobatic dramas, both intimate and extravagant, and a panoply of characters who manage to be both seductive and intimidating. This roguesí gallery lurk and linger in caves and corners like lascivious lovers or hang suspended, grinning down at us like demonic angels.

Why they are there, at first, remains tantalisingly unclear but from the moment a globe of light is tossed from hand to hand and grabbed at like some elusive secret, we know they are there for us and we are there for them. We are not so silent witnesses in an exuberant parade of humanity. Like the circus itself, these protagonists are transient and ephemeral, waiting for their moment, their time to make their mark.

And make their mark they do, in a seamless sequence of aerobatic and gymnastic dramas, the characters reveal their loves and longings, their dreams and nightmares. A soundtrack of voices gives us a glimpse into their lives but it is the panoramic visual display that opens the window on their world. Two lovers entwined high above us on a single rope give a balletic and sensual feat of lovemaking on the most tenuous footholds imaginable.

A grid of rope and steel spirals up into the darkness where lost souls climb and clamber, then fall and swoop into a void theyíre desperate to escape from. In a moment of grace and beauty and ineffable sadness the girl on the flying trapeze, clutching a letter, soars high above our upturned faces, her amplified laboured breathing belying her effortless athleticism, and then in a heart stopping leap of faith dives into the darkness, showering us with scraps of the letter, while she remains hanging in the air, a silent spinning silhouette.

The moments, like the characters, keep weaving in and out of us, above and below. Moments when we gasp at the exhilarating audacity of their skills, laugh at their slapstick, tumbling playfulness and moments when we simply applaud the sheer virtuosity, such as the hoola hoop girl, a picture of stillness in the eye of a storm of hoops as she transforms into herself into a human helicopter. All this while the band plays on, an exuberant and eclectic cocktail where Frank Zappa meets Miles Davis.

But just as this crazy dance seems destined to descend into disarray and despair, an order is created. Out of the cabins and craters, down from the girders and cables of what now seems to resemble the wrecked hull of some sunken ship, its motley crew begin to assemble in disorderly fashion in a solemn procession that spasmodically convulses and crumbles to the floor, only to reform and reunite with a renewed dignity and sense of purpose.

A purpose that draws them to a blinding light outside the tent and outside their temporary world, aware that that they have made a mark on us and left a record and are now ready to move on; a journey into the unknown and immortality. As they disappear we are left with our sense of mortality and the chance to make our own leap of faith and be remembered. Certainly No Fit State Circus can be now remembered alongside the likes of sporting greats, Barry John and Viv Richards who also graced Ponty Park with their coruscating skills.

Reviewed by: Larry Allan

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