Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Chapter 162: The Circus is Coming... NoFit State's BIANCO

NoFit State's Delia Ceruti
Photo: @Sigrid Spinnox via

The weather is a petulant lover at the moment, blowing hot and cold. But no matter how bitter it gets, inside NoFit State's Big Top it is toasty as the performers are warming up for the opening of Bianco, part of Southbank Centre's Winter Festival supported by NatWest. NoFit State is a Cardiff-based company, set up 30 years ago by a group of uni friends, and is now home to a stellar cast drawn from all over the world. The company is at the forefront of the contemporary circus movement, and Bianco blends together live music, text, dance and circus skills to create a thrilling experience, "circus like no other". 

I saw Bianco several years ago at The Roundhouse, a ground-breaking promenade show, spectacularly poetic, in which the audience was very much immersed in the action, set to the music of a cracking live band, as we were discreetly ushered around the space.  Being on our feet the whole time I felt somehow more engaged, while proximity to the performers, close enough to see the blisters and bruises from all their hard graft, really brought home that these are ordinary people who perform extraordinary feats. Watching them then, how I longed to have a go myself and within a year had signed up to classes at the National Centre for Circus Arts and started writing this blog shortly thereafter… NoFit State has a lot to answer for! 

Since then the production has been on tour to great acclaim in its "silver spaceship", a tardis of a tent, and has now landed on the Southbank. Inside, the four giant kingpins holding up the canvas stand like colossal trunks of legs, reminding me that the show originally took its cue from José Saramago’s novel “The Elephant’s Journey”, not in terms of a linear plot, but in the sense of wonder and adventure conjured up. I went there to meet performer Delia Ceruti, wanting to hear about her own circus odyssey and how it fits into the show.  

Delia is from Bergamo, just outside Milan, and while she had studied ballet for fifteen years, it was actually a business degree that brought her to London. Through her sideline in photography, Delia came into contact with aerial circus when a dancer friend invited her to take some professional pictures, and so began a love affair that swept her off her feet and up into the air. Her circus training began in 2011 at Greentop Community Circus and her meteoric rise has led to performances up to 200m in the air. My stomach heaved at the thought. Delia has taken part in an Olympic torch relay, worked in hoop, doubles trapeze, has a particular interest in clowning (you need a good sense of humour when you are one half of a camel on stilts), toured Cuba with Canadian company Cirque Fantastic and joined NoFit State early in 2015 where she now performs aerial routines on the corde lisse, a smooth rope. As we chatted about her love of rope, it struck me that Delia is someone who unlocks the secrets of her art through endless play, continually exploring possibilities and infinite combinations - she has been known to scuba-dive in flippers on rope. In Bianco, director Firenza Guidi channels this boundless passion into an act of extreme beauty (pictured above), drawing out the emotional content by working with Delia to develop movement not to the sound of music, but instead to the beat of her own heart. With a number of new performers bringing their unique skills and experiences to their acts, and with a whole new musical score by David Murray since I saw the show last, I cannot wait to see how Bianco has developed over the past few years. Like Saramago's elephant, the show has travelled widely and its epic journey is finally coming to an end. Whatever you do, don't miss it. Who knows where it will lead...

Bianco is running from 23 November 2016 - 22 January 2017. 

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