Daring show at Brighton Festival takes audiences back to the roots of circus

Lexicon. Picture by Mark Robson
Lexicon. Picture by Mark Robson

NoFit State Circus are promising something different for their latest show at the Brighton Festival.

The dazzling Lexicon, a daring and contemporary take on the circus experience, is on Hove Lawns from May 3-5, 7, 9-12 and 14 at 7.30pm; May 5, 7 and 12 at 2.30pm; and May 6 and 13 at 3pm.

Tom Rack, artistic director and co-founder, said: “This is a very different show for us but we have been to Brighton numerous times before. We have done shows in the big top and we have done outdoor shows.

“All these shows have been immersive promenade experiences. This is something else.

“We are sitting the audience down and going back to the roots of circus. It is the 250th anniversary of circus this year, and there is a big national celebration of that.

Tom continues: “We are going back to some of the roots, but creating a contemporary circus… but a contemporary circus informed by the heritage and the tradition.

“We are looking back at some of the things that we have moved away from and we are bringing them back in but with a NoFit State edge, the NoFit State way of doing things.

“We have not worked with so many ground acts before. With the promenade shows, everything is above you, so that will be different too, but all with our edge and meaning, still trying to drive that special relationship with the audience.

“It’s good fun to do something different. We have been doing some of our shows for 15 odd years now. It just felt like time to do something different. We don’t want to become known as that company that does the same thing all the time. It has been fantastic to have a change, and everyone has risen to the challenge.”

Tom is one of the founding members of NoFit State Circus, which has been going for 30 years.

“It was back in the day when they called the artform new circus, back at the beginning of the contemporary circus movement. We were pioneers in that respect. We were all inspired by what was happening in France and a few other parts of the world.

“Contemporary circus was a reaction against the traditional circus structures. It was about trying to expand the artform to bring in theatre and theatricality rather than just circus technique. We made it not drama, but dramatic. It is full of images and informed on a cinematic scale. There is an undercurrent of themes. There is no story with a beginning and a middle and an end and a resolution going on. But there is a narrative and each character has their own narrative.”

As for the name, as Tom explains, the company set up in the days when circuses such as the Moscow State Circus, the Chinese State Circus and the Netherlands State Circus would bring across exotic acts.

“We were just a bunch of reprobates from Cardiff, so we called ourselves the NoFit State Circus. It just made us laugh, but it has become satirical now when you think of the quality of the people we are now working with.”

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