Staging an outdoor event in England is always a bit of a risky thing to do as the British weather is rarely kind, and tonight is no exception. With the mercury plummeting and the wind coming down from the North, the assembling crowd looks a lot more like they are about to set off for the North Pole, rather than see a show.
Despite this meteorological setback, the stage is set for NoFit State to put on their latest production, Barricade. Following on from their success with Parklife in 2010, the company of aerialists, acrobats and tightrope walkers arrive and take their places on a huge structure, the barricade of the title, surrounded by their audience and ready to tell the tale of the political struggle between government and the people.
Backed by two lorries, one of which has a three piece band on it, the barricade is formed by a series of metal gantries, ropes and wires. The structure is covered is spotlights and features lots of various sized tyres strewn in, what appears to be, a very haphazard fashion but, as we soon see, they are actually all placed very carefully.
The acrobatic performers all display tremendous strength and dexterity, whether they are flying high above the crowd, doing amazing tricks on the trampoline or performing other feats of amazing strength. There are, however, a couple of issues with this production. The storyline is not easy to follow as, in what appears to be a political standoff, the performers take the roles of both the soldiers and the people, making it difficult to understand what is happening. Also the music is too loud and, with the singer in full flow, it is not easy to hear the performers when they speak.
Having said that, the circus skills that the entire cast display, are just brilliant. Through the chaos we see balancing acts, trapeze, high-wire walking, hula-hooping and, towards the end, an extremely dramatic fire scene. The flying acts are the most impressive with cast members performing their acts while attached to safety wires which use human counterweights for added flexibility, as well as safety.
The use of wind turbines to blow debris across the stage works well, as does the extremely complex lighting design – quite amazing for an outdoor production such as this – and the audience are all fully engaged with whoops of delight greeting every death defying performance.
Overall the hour long performance is quite breathtaking and, with some work on the storyline together with a volume control on the band, would be superb. However, considering that this is one of Brighton Festival’s massive free outdoor events, it does sound rather harsh to moan about it.