Following the theme of circus that started with last week’s almost painfully perfect Cirque du Soleil, the show I am reviewing this week is about all the not-so perfect stuff that goes on behind the scenes. Scottish circus performer and show director Ellie Dubois has created No Show, a show bringing failure, defeat and frustration to the spotlight. Dubois created this theatre/mini circus to show the general public (by that I mean us, non-circus people) more than just “the tip of the iceberg, the 1%” that we are normally exposed to. No Show won a Herald Angel Reward at the Edinburgh Fringe Award in 2017 and has received numerous positive reviews.
The show focused on five women dressed in matching striped outfits, interacting frequently with the audience, each getting her own 15 minutes in the spotlight. Each of the women shows off her own unique talents, from the ever-so-dangerous steel-wheel to handstands. One woman gets lifted up by some sort of a trapeze attached to nothing but her ponytail. During these acts the women fall victim to critique and harsh words from their colleagues. As the show promised all the women fail at some point and are met with disappointment and neglect. “Better luck next time”, “You can try again tomorrow”, “Push that smile” and “Could you show us more splits, we’ve paid for more splits” are phrases thrown at these poor women by their own peers. More often than not though, they succeed at performing very skillful tricks, leaving the audience is stunned. Altogether, the show leaves a lot to desire for the audience. Instead of seeing them fail time after time, instead of seeing sweat and tears we get seemingly very scheduled missteps mixed in with a bit of ill-performed dark humour. The show is predictable. During the 65-minute long playtime we barely delve any deeper than 10% down from the tip of the iceberg. Towards the end one of the girls gives us a heartfelt story about going to circus school alongside boys and always being “good… but for a girl”. It is a topic worth exploring of course, but the superficiality of it all leaves something to desire. A bit over an hour is not a long time to go in-depth of course, but there could be less jumping around and cartwheeling and more exploration of the actual topics. The show tries so hard to reach that next level but doesn’t quite get there. Sportsmanship and failure for women is a concept that has definitely been explored before to more success, with films such as Million Dollar Baby and last year’s Battle of the Sexes. That’s not to say the show isn’t well-practiced, the tricks do really deserve applause. But it’s a visually entertaining 65 minutes at most. The plot and the acting lack that little bit of extra oomph. So, I say: “better luck next time” No Show!