No Show – Soho Theatre, London

Director:  Ellie Dubois

Reviewer:  Richard Maguire

2018 saw the revival of the circus and no sooner had one circus left town than another one arrived. With so many metaphorical tents jostling for space, each circus company must have its own spin, its own style, in order to stand out from the competition. No Show’s unique approach is an odd one, and it doesn’t always allow the talents of the five performers to shine.

Some circuses like Becoming Shades and Briefs use the thrill of sex as scaffolding for their tricks, while the French punk company Groupe Bekkrell present their skills as if they are waiting for Godot. The final circus of last year, Circus 1903, couched its production in nostalgia and even brought on life-sized puppets of elephants to memorialise the ‘good, old days’. It’s hard to describe the technique used by No Show; at times the performers seem bored, and, at other times, malicious. The performance varies from the metatheatrical to the naïve.

There’s nothing wrong with their tricks and tumbles, but the patter in between the routines is misguided, especially the repeated incidences when Francesca Hyde and Michelle Ross humiliate Alice Gilmartin each time she prepares for her spectacular handstand act. This ‘bullying’ may be comic but it counteracts Kate McWilliam’s call for gender equality in the circus. Likewise, Camille Toyer’s performance with the Cyr wheel is ruined by McWilliam’s description of what could go wrong if Toyer lost control of her prop.

Each performer has the opportunity to demonstrate her particular skills, with McWilliam cartwheeling and tumbling, and Hyde providing the highpoint of the evening with her hair-raising (literally) aerial display. The stage of the Soho Theatre is not high enough for Michelle Ross to show off her trapeze skills and so she pretends to fly high above us and even though she’s got her two feet firmly on the floor, it’s another routine that doesn’t land.

As part of a revue show, 30 minutes of these performers would be thrilling, but as an hour-long show it struggles. Some of these minutes are filled with the cast doing very little. Admittedly, this process is summed up in its title, No Show. But punning aside, there is the potential for No Show to be a better show.

Runs until 9 February 2019 | Image: Chris Reynolds

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