It’s been a few years since NoFit State stormed Brighton with Bianco, a show deconstructing modern circus and endowing it with a true sense of intimacy. Drawing the spectator to heart of the action, it discarded normal barriers to create something utterly special. This year they come to the city as part of its Festival, returning the audience into the round and powerfully pumping up on spectacle. I wouldn’t want to imply that NoFit State’s Lexicon are anywhere near traditional fare. The performers might be attired like Victorian carnival folk (or rambunctious extras from a Tim Burton film), but their show is thoroughly modern.
This is another well-executed lesson in wilful unorthodoxy. Familiar circus tropes get twisted into new forms in this riot of pure mischief. The most difficult of circus disciplines are somehow made to look easy, while the most mundane of everyday tasks are given an ingenious twist to make them suitably perilous.
It literally bursts out of an old-style classroom. This is an obvious allusion to the detention-worthy actions of its pupils and the child-like wonder cast across the audience. The youthful zeal is mirrored in the tempo at which the routines come at you. It’s a flurry of costume changes (some more obvious than others), enough unique bicycles to make any hipster green with envy, triple Cyr-wheel/argument action and a human mobile twirling above our heads. There’s also some moments of stunning shadow-play. This is particularly poignant – each tiny movement exaggerated into a giant form.
The otherworldly expanse of their tent is often filled with shouting figures darting through the darkness. The performers think nothing of starting a performance from within the stands, or even carrying vital props through the masses – you’ll never be as close to a super-sized unicycle. Although the hullabaloo can sweep you along, the most attention-grabbing sequences of Lexicon are where they scale the action back to make way for stolen moments of solitary beauty. If there’s a coherent narrative, I couldn’t tell. Tonight, we’re inhabiting an unruly dream-world, where ideas tumble over one another and morph into the spectacular and unexpected. Anything can still happen.
NoFit State’s Lexicon is on Hove Lawns until Mon 14 May, as part of Brighton Festival 2018
Images by Richard Davenport