Ever wanted to run away and join the circus?

Source The Times
Author Donald Hutera
Shows ImMortal - Coming Out Alive 2004

EVER wanted to run away and join the circus? ImMortal, which is currently touring Britain inside its own futuristic silver tent, may be the nearest that untrained audience members will ever get. In this ambitious promenade performance, the playful and chaotic action swirls and unfurls above, beside and around us until we almost feel a part of it.
Ditching traditional circus trappings of animals and clowns, this intoxicating, tumultuous production for all ages by the Cardiff-based NoFit State Circus climbs towards headier theatrical realms. Decked out in retro-style clothing, a teeming cast of twenty portrays a motley society. Characters include a schoolgirl and sailor, a semi-transvestite and an inebriate, a bride and a would-be suicide. Although there is no real narrative, these fictional beings seem to always be careening in and out of fleeting yet intense public encounters.

Each of the two acts commences with a poetic, memory-based voiceover that mystifies rather than illuminates. Better to surrender to the show’s deceptively shambolic, quicksilver atmosphere. Featuring multiple stages and flexible rigging, the space is continually being reconfigured through clever and subtle manipulations of mesh screens or white sheets which drop to reveal a new scene or setting. The effect is not a little disorientating — like being plunged into a living novel and occasionally losing the plot.

The live, blues-tinged rock score aside, what drives ImMortal is the cast’s individual skills and extraordinarily engaging ensemble energy.

Whether it’s a young dreamboat juggling his bowler hat, an ecstatic trapeze artist or a gloriously jaded and polyrhythmic hula hooper, they all seem to love what they’re doing. Guided by director Firenza Guidi, their behaviour is of the circus and our world, but elevated to levels of strangeness, excess or near-myth.

In truth, ImMortal may be a tad overstuffed. But better too much than too little. NoFit’s busy show builds in excitement. It’s also sprinkled with oddball humour (observe the bloke who balances on a dentist’s chair), sensuality (the couple whose intimate rope act is akin to watching clothed aerial sex) and charm (as in a group routine involving a tiny trampoline and a line of drying laundry). The overall effect is endearing, liberating and on a far more human scale than you’ll get from the likes of Cirque du Soleil.

ImMortal is at Birmingham International Festival (July 9-18), Stockton International Riverside Festival (July 23-Aug 1), Swansea Bay Festival (Aug 6-15) and Pembroke Dock Arts Festival (Aug 20-29).

#Touring Tent show