Naturally when one enters a performance deemed 'circus', certain preconceptions are difficult to shake. But watching Welsh company NoFit State's Tabú, helmed by artistic director Firenza Guidi, it doesn't take long to realise that this is circus redefined, without the restraints of a straightforward explanation.
A feeling of intimacy between viewer and performer is developed from the get-go thanks to the seatless arrangement, where spectators are free to wander around as acrobats fly through the air above them, legs kicking within such close proximity to your head that the wind blows wisps of hair across your forehead.
This relationship between audience and cast is successful most likely because it seems to echo the relationship the company maintain among themselves. Built on the ethos “the sum of the whole outweighs the sum of the parts”, NoFit State, much like fellow current London residents La Clique, live and travel together, “breathing as one community”. And this demonstrably familial bond shines through in the performance.
But this is no ordinary family of course – it's a family of extraordinarily flexible, bendable members who put on a show that captures the audience’s attention the whole way through. But they don't just rely on the staples of the circus repertoire; they take an ordinary tight rope walk and throw in unexpected additions - a change of shoes, a basket which drops from the sky to produce a bowl of spaghetti. And hula-hooping becomes a whole lot edgier when each is hoop is laden is flames.
Even when the duo of flying trapeze artists doesn’t quite make the grab, their faces remain painted with determination and enjoyment - no fear, this is a small hiccup and the show must go on. And as it does go on, one’s investment heightens as the exhilaration builds. Like all great circus troupes, the acts are able to maintain a sense of consistency and ensemble harmony, yet each highlights the versatility and skill of the individual performer. As viewers shuffle from one vantage point to the next, new angles open up to watch as a performer unwinds himself from ceiling to floor while a rope unravels from his body, as an aerial hoop performance is enhanced by the flowing layers of a cocktail dress, as swings floats through the air, and as German wheels stuffed with performers roll along the floor.
The combination of emotionally-charged live music, dramatically shadowed lighting and spectacular acrobatics is utterly intoxicating - Tabú is engaging, wholly entertaining and unstoppable.