No Show, directed by Ellie Dubois and performed by five ludicrously talented circus performers, is being shown at Summerhall in an unassuming black box theatre as part of this year’s Fringe. It’s not the kind of razzle dazzle venue you might expect from a circus show – this is no spiegeltent or big top – but this clever contemporary circus piece may just change how you look at the genre.
The show begins with an upbeat choreographed routine full of acrobatics, leaps and plenty of smiles and sass; it’s the kind of routine you might see at a number of circus shows across the capital in the month of August. But No Show is not really like any other circus show as the audience are taken on a poignant exploration of the stories behind the smiles and a look at how women are represented in the world of circus.
The performers are a brilliant ensemble, working together to perform impressive tricks and illustrate important points about women and performance. We’re shown incredible feats but we’re also told just how dangerous they are; a slip or a wobble could result in broken toes or far worse. But do the audience appreciate the strength and precision these tricks require?
The audience is often referenced by the cast as the relationship between performer and spectator is explored. Alice Gilmartin tries throughout the show to make a speech but each time she is silenced by her fellow performers who tell her that the audience don’t want to hear her talk, they just want to see a handstand.
In a particularly moving scene, Kate McWilliam tells us about her experiences as a professional acrobat; while the men get to do powerful, dynamic moves, the women are told to show off their best splits and their winning smiles. In between telling this story, Kate gets to tumble and shows off an impressive selection of no-handed cartwheels, flips and backflips. It’s a powerful, heartbreaking moment that succinctly illustrates the need for circus shows to shake-up their gender roles.
No Show is a hugely entertaining hour; a perfect mix of world-class circus, comedy and an important topic that needs to be addressed. Dubois has created a breathtaking piece of contemporary circus in No Show, something that could – and should – change the way that audiences look at the circus presented at the Fringe and beyond.