Joys and heartbreak behind the showmanship of the circus

The realities of the apparently glamorous world of the circus are brought to the stage in No Show.  (Photo: Chris Hoyle)
The realities of the apparently glamorous world of the circus are brought to the stage in No Show. (Photo: Chris Hoyle)

Ellie Dubois’ No Show took the Edinburgh Fringe by storm in 2017, winning a prestigious Herald Angel award, and putting female strength, skill and power centre stage.

The production – now touring Scotland, including a performance in Aberdeenshire this month – joyously and heartbreakingly reveals what lies hidden beneath the showmanship of circus.

What do you expect when you go to the circus? The greatest show on earth?

No Show opens with five strong, glamorous circus artists showcasing their spellbinding acrobatics and flexibility – the perfect ‘show girls’. But, after this opening number, the show starts to break down and No Show begins to unveil attempts and failures, revealing frustrations and how artists are pitted against each other.

The audience learn of everything that could go wrong from finger crushing to concussion and shoulder dislocation in a Cyr Wheel act.

In this production, we are allowed the opportunity to see behind the flawless smiles and perfect execution of traditional circus performance – to see the wobbles, the pain and the real cost of aiming for perfection.

This is a show for anyone who has tried, failed and failed better.

No Show deconstructs superhuman circus performers and shows them as vulnerable and human.

Ellie Dubois said: “Touring is the lifeblood of theatre and part of the circus tradition, so it is super exciting to be taking No Show across the UK and bringing contemporary circus to many different communities in diverse venues from theatres to village halls.

“At a time when sexual politics are being exposed in film, theatre and other art forms, it seems especially important that circus is also exploring its gender politics.”

Even on days when muscles ache and bruises need camouflaged, the show definitely must go on, served up with a big, happy smile and a theatrical flourish.

This is the back-stage reality that Ellie Dubois acknowledges in her astutely-focused new piece, No Show, in which the five performers also offer details of what it takes to excel in their respective skills.

No Show is at Woodend Barn, Banchory, on Saturday, September 29.

This tour is funded by ACE Creative Scotland.