This is not a circus show, this is a demonstration. Ellie Dubois directs No Show to state, in no uncertain terms, that the work that circus performers put into a production and the stigma attached with performing more and more difficult routines to please demanding audiences and programmers. No Show allows the acrobats themselves to have a voice.

Alice Gilmartin isn’t allowed to speak, she is simply there to smile and perform different, difficult hand balancing techniques. This scene comes back again and again throughout No Show – Dubois continuously highlights our impression of Gilmartin as a performing monkey, adding extra grace and flair to an already visually perfect routine. Do something more original; make sure you get the angle right so the audience can see how impressive it is; throw in a hair flick and a sexy eyelash to give the punters what they want. Gilmartin acquiesces each time – she gets paid for more difficulty, more risk of harm. Francesca Hyde and Michelle Ross egg her on to push herself harder without any sense of reward. It’s uncomfortable to bear witness to.

Lisa Chudalla and Kate McWilliam highlight the dangers of the cyr wheel, gliding over the potentially life-changing health and safety risks that are mitigated by professionalism alone. McWilliam tries to do over 67 cartwheels in a minute to break the world record – she doesn’t manage it and we are disappointed. Nothing short of ground-breaking will do. Dubois’ performers plaster on a smile and a grin despite being physically exhausted, a clever mask to remind us that all is fine – on with the show. Hyde spins around in the air as she is held up by just her hair – each spin is beautifully executed and we applaud enthusiastically. This one is innovative and new; the dangers are obvious so we are more impressed.

But it’s McWilliam that stops us short and speaks about the profession in no uncertain terms. The whole of No Show lends itself to the divide being between circus performer and any of audience, producer or show programmer. But when she spells out for us that every trick witnessed is a power discipline, we suddenly see the sexism inherent within the field as well. Women are hired to be graceful – aerial hoops or silks, graceful splits and cheesy grins. But here we have cyr wheel, hand balancing, tumbling. McWilliam specialises in Chinese pole. This group break down stereotypes with pointed stares, Dubois deftly highlighting that woman can show strength and men can be balletic. The imbalance in the genre is inherent and thrown into a stark light.

No Show is not a circus show, it’s a demonstration of talent. These five women can perform extraordinary feats of acrobatic prowess – they are highly specialised and trained in what they do. Our standards of circus is now unattainably high – Dubois and her performers deserve respect for their abilities, not the expectation for more difficulty, more danger and more visual every time.

 

★★★☆☆

No Show plays Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.