The female form is a funny thing. It twists, it splits, it kinks, bends and moulds and yet still it looks elegant, even when cavorted and warped out of shape. And it hadn’t occurred to me before tonight, how it also smiles. The female form, when performing, has to look heavenly.

Ellie Dubois’ No Show is a constructive, deconstruction of circus. It is a critique of gender politics encircled within a performance which demands the five candy-striped female-troupe perform their “best tricks” to dazzle and amaze the audience.

The five performers: Francesca Hyde, Kate McWilliam, Michelle Ross, Alice Gilmartin and Camille Toyer are endearing as a team, even while showcasing the girl-on-girl politics that is sure to be happening beyond the curtain. And yet as individual personalities, even though we only see snippets of each, it is clear to see each performer has a unique talent and her own space.

The acts and tricks are mesmerising – especially given the intimate setting – you can almost lick the sweat trickling down their face. And as each act is performed, the narration reminds us of the risks, of the technical difficulty – of the fact that not one member of the audience could possibly stand up and do anything remotely resembling anything of what any of these girls are doing.

And it takes a while to understand that. To understand the actual gumption, the real grit behind the glamour. Because when it comes to circus, and when it comes to girls, it’s easy to forget – there is a life beyond the long legs, the glossy hair and big, smiley smiles.

No Show is an entertaining exploratory experimentation of what it means to be a female circus performer. The tricks – especially the cyr wheel and the topknot-trapeze (aka hair hanging) – are stand-out breath-holding performances that held the audience in awe. But to develop the real power of this performance, the show needs a stronger structure and story to enable the audience to connect more and flow with the show.

Reviewer: Samantha Collett

Reviewed: 24th January 2019

North West End Rating: ★★★