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Lexicon review – circus juggles first-class turns with a dollop of nostalgia

Swapping their trademark promenade-style circus for a retro seated show in a big top, NoFit State’s new show mixes skill and physical poetry with a large dollop of nostalgia. Despite an opening sequence in which old-fashioned school desks are transformed into sky-skating boats suspended high above the audience, the meaning of the title never reveals itself. Dramatic coherence has never been this company’s strong suit.

And yet if you go with the flow it creates a seductive dreaminess around some first-class turns, including marvellous displays of diablo and unicycling, neither normally high on the wow-factor. The unicycling in particular is both absurd and full of drama as attempts to get dressed while cycling, or to ride over a line of upturned wine glasses, constantly wobble on the edge of failure.

It’s great to see the clowning spring directly out of the skills themselves: flaming torches constantly set the juggler alight; three men wage a ridiculous war on the Cyr wheel. A hand-balancing act set to haunting klezmer chords, is both funny and mournful.

But it’s a pity that the show also looks to the past in the way the women are sidelined and showcased: twirling in the air on a giant mobile, their skirts rising like Marilyn Monroe’s, or doing traditional skills such as manipulation. A terrific, largely all-female band doesn’t quite make up for the fact that men command the space and preen on the trapeze and the women sweep up after them.

At Brighton festival until 14 May. Box office: 01273 709709. Then touring until 24 June.

Source: The Guardian