Bianco – Big Top Southbank Centre until 22 January

NoFit State Circus – Bianco

★★★★★ ‘A stunning visual display that immerses you in its world’

Guest Review By Sarah Tinsley

As the nights draw in and the weather starts to pinch at your feet this time of year, there are few places that take the edge off like the Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival. Ablaze with twinkling lights, scented with cinnamon and humming with voices, it’s a wonderful winter escape. But this is not simply the home of eclectic food and various mulled drinks. In the centre of the Festival is a looming big top, its interior dark and mysterious. Enter there, and you’ll find a whole different world; the magical world of NoFit State Circus, and their mesmerising show, Bianco.

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

Having not read any reviews, I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience. From the outset, as a standing audience, you are submerged in a chaotic world. The performers shout and interact, flitting through the audience and welcoming you. As the show progresses, the audience are directed to different parts of the tent. We move to allow huge wheeled contraptions to pass by, we gather closer to gaze up at whirling displays above our heads, and we squeeze to one side to allow another performer space to swoop onto a piece of set. It’s breath-taking. However, it is worth noting that the show is over two hours with an interval, so do bring comfortable shoes!

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

The show itself leaps from quirky and funny, to incredibly moving. Underpinning each of the impressive circus acts is a band performing original songs, each one driving the performers forward and counterbalancing beautifully the impressive visual spectacle. I think my highlights were the trampoline ‘swimming pool’ and the dark ‘funeral’ trapeze routine. That gives you at least a sense of the variety on show. All of human life and experience is here. We have a non-linear narrative, which nonetheless circles around certain themes, and leaves us with a mesmerising finale that reveals the poetry of the human body.

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

Photo Credit Tristram Kenton

Bianco first started at the Eden Project in 2012, and has evolved and changed since then, along with its performers. Each one of them is involved in all elements of the show, and it has been seen by over a quarter of a million people in 11 different countries across the globe. And they all had a treat.

One of the elements of their circus play that I thoroughly enjoyed was how visual the ‘backstage’ elements were. The people acting as counterbalances to the swooping central performers are incredibly visible, and become part of the display alongside the ‘main’ performance. Rather than trying to cover up scene changes they become a part of it, with pieces being whirled around, everyone part of the shifting and growing stage scene, shouting and laughing. It’s a practical premise – if you want to cover up the noise of scene change, make a lot of noise – but it is managed in such a way that it further brings you into the show and gives you a real immersive experience of the practicalities in staging something like this.

A stunning visual display that immerses you in its world. Trust me, you need to see this one.

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