No Show, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Five women enter the space ready to perform. They are circus performers. But they aren’t just going to do dainty, pretty tricks with big smiles. They’re going to tell us about the risks they take and the sexism they encounter as they try to do the work they trained so hard to do.

The small space limits the scale of their tricks, but each of them gets a turn to showcase their specialism. A cyr wheel demonstration is accompanied by commentary on the injuries the performer can sustain. The playful hair hanging act needs no commentary as the risks to the performer are clear. The hand balancer on canes is pushed into increasingly extreme and lengthy poses; she’s also not allowed to talk to the audience but she’s encouraged to flick her hair about.

Most sobering is Kate, an acrobat and tumbler who is told she’s ‘good for a girl’ and most frequently offered aerial work. It’s more feminine, you see.

Director Ellie Dubois uses stillness and gaze to challenge the audience, and to empower the performers. This is not a dialogue – we are being told how it is in circus, with fierce confidence, and we need to listen. Our light, fun entertainment is not harmless or outside of the gender bias, and we certainly need to keep this in mind the next time we see some circus.

No Show runs through 27 August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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