No Show dir by Ellie Dubois – Summerhall, Edinburgh
Five female circus performers occupy a remarkably small stage, all the more so given the spectacular tricks they are about the perform. It soon becomes apparent this is not a traditional show. Two of the troupe bully a colleague into holding harder and harder handstands. While one woman performs in the steel ring, another commentates on the precise nature of the injuries she will suffer if she misjudges a spin. The trapeze artist gives us a dummy version of her act, as the ceiling is around 10 metres too low for an actual trapeze. At one point, the five sit in silence and stare at the audience while eating doughnuts.
No Show is a brilliant, multi-layered piece of theatre. Fran, Kate, Michelle, Lisa and Alice are all astonishingly strong acrobats whose tricks make the audience gasp. It also emerges that they are less than impressed with their treatment as performers. As women, they are expected to look decorative, smile a lot and leave the strength work to the men. No Show systematically dismantles the veneers of the circus and, in an understated but cheerfully confrontational manner, exposes the sexism beneath. The result is not only the best circus you’ll see at the Fringe, but one of the best shows full stop.