With striking bubble- shaped greenhouses and an indoor rainforest as its backdrop, the world famous Eden Project has provided plenty of inspiration for NoFit State Circus.
Two years ago, the Cardiff-based company was commissioned to create a major outdoor aerial acrobatic show to celebrate the world famous Cornwall visitor attraction’s 10th birthday.
And last year, it returned to the site for a second residency, where it developed a new show.
That show, Bianco, is now touring and next week it will be staged on home turf.
It’s three years since the company last toured with Taboo, which wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Festival.
“We decided to take three years off touring that style of work and had two summer residencies at the Eden Project,” says NoFit State Circus co-founder Tom Rack.
“It was a good opportunity for us to experiment and explore some new styles and bring some new people into the company.
“We’ve developed this work in a slightly different way and that was our attention. We wanted to reinvigorate our work. Bianco has a very different energy. It’s in the same style as our previous shows – Immortal and Taboo – in that it’s a promenade show in which the audience is involved.”
After opening at London’s Roundhouse this month, Bianco is now heading on the road, starting at the Wales Millennium Centre.
While the company has performed in the past inside its eye-catching silver Big Top in Cardiff Bay’s Oval Basin – directly outside the WMC – it is now taking to the venue’s Donald Gordon Stage for the first time. And rather than sitting in the auditorium, audience members will mingle with the performers on the vast stage.
“It will give the audiences a very different, unique and interesting experience,” says Rack, who will then be taking the show on the road in the company’s touring Big Top.
WMC artistic director, Conrad Lynch, is also looking forward to audiences enjoying a different experience at the venue, which is renowned for staging West End shows.
He says: “We are constantly trying to explore alternative ways of enhancing audiences experiences here at the centre and I believe offering a promenade performance on stage with the performers does just that.
“We’ve been working closely with NoFit State for a number of years now and I’m delighted that as one of our associated companies we can this time welcome them inside the centre.”
Rack says Bianco has evolved since it was performed at the Eden Project.
“We’ve possibly lightened our work a little as it was known for being a little dark,” he admits. “It has a slightly more youthful, exuberant energy. While we were at the Eden Project we had really diverse audiences – there were holidaymakers, locals and regular arts attenders. It really does appeal to everyone as it has all the spectacle, excitement and energy of the circus.”
While there’s not a narrative as such, Bianco is about the world encompassed by a number of different characters which unfolds to a pounding soundtrack performed by a live band.
“There’s a sense of journey. Audiences are transported to a strange bohemian community but there are all the great traditional circus skills, such as the tight wires, swings and trapeze.”
Rack says their time at the Eden Project was a positive time for NoFit State Circus, which was founded in 1985 by a group of five friends who “wanted to avoid getting proper jobs”.
“It provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our work and develop our work. It also exposed us to new audiences.
“It gave us the chance to rest from the constant grind of touring and concentrate on creating work. It also allowed us to bring some more international artists to work with us. And, of course, Cornwall is just a really nice place to be.”
Rack and his team are now looking forward to seeing places like Brighton, Bristol and Narberth before the company heads to Edinburgh this summer. NoFit State are now festival fringe favourites and three years ago they won an award for Taboo.
“It’s good for us to go to Edinburgh as there’s a great audience there for our work.”
Bianco is at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff from May 1 to 4; Bluestone in Narberth from June 28 to July 6 and Beach Road, Bangor from July 12 to 20. For details, visit www.nofitstate.org