Review: BIANCO at the NoFit State’s Big Top

Stunning circus skills provide a welcome alternative to the usual festive fare.

In recent years, the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival has become as prominent a fixture on the festive calendar as head-splitting mulled wine hangovers and sheepishly perusing Grindr when you go home to visit the folks (amazing who comes out of the woodwork…).

This year the stage is similarly set and the usual array of market stalls and food vendors pepper London’s riverbank, flogging their seasonal wares. Not to mention some super fairground rides and spectacular views of London at night. There’s also a welcome return for the cutesy Rekorderlig Cider Lodge, which has the feel of a pop-up branch of IKEA: two floors of Swedish furniture and fake wooden panelling, offset against plenty of sweet cider and a charming makeshift style. We’re also delighted to note that the BUMP Rollerdisco is back, an unmissable chance to make a fool of yourself while a live DJ spins some epic beats. Just like your average Saturday night, only this time on wheels. It’s irresistible.

Amid all these festive happenings (there’s no entry fee, so we’d definitely recommend going for a wander), it could be easy to overlook the live show at the heart of it all. But we’re very glad we didn’t.

Housed in an ominously dark bigtop, BIANCO is the latest show from British circus company NoFit State. Director Firenza Guidi has created a disorientating and magical piece of promenade theatre, featuring everything you’d expect from an old-fashioned circus – but with an almost anarchic approach to the usual rules of play. The audience is herded around the gloomy tent frequently, giving the performance space an ever-changing sense of shape and size, and allowing the performers to carry out each new stunt in the most effective way possible. All this is set to a soundtrack of live music from an onstage band, tucked neatly into one side of the cavernous interior. The music is moody and entrancing, seeming to transcend genre entirely, to create a sound that mirrors perfectly the action. We don’t want to give too much away, as the delight in this piece is to watch it unfold and evolve right in front of you. Suffice to say the performance artists at the heart of the show are all top-notch, and it’s wonderful to marvel at their skill at such close quarters.

Promenade theatre can be a truly captivating way to experience live performance, and although BIANCO doesn’t have the strongest of narratives, it still manages to intrigue and entertain right to the very end. Better get down to the Southbank quick. Only a few more sleeps until Santa comes…

GT gives BIANCO at the NoFit State’s Big Top — 4/5

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