No Show | Summerhall (Venue 26) | Star rating: ****
The snazzy costumes and smiling faces are all present and correct, but right from the start there’s something off-kilter about this circus show. For one thing, it takes place in a dark, low-ceilinged room in Summerhall, rather than a capacious big top. Which admittedly leads to one of No Show’s few drawbacks (they can’t show us everything they’re capable of) but definitely fits with the edgy, non-conformist vibe these young women are going for.
Francesca, Kate, Lisa, Michelle and Alice stand before us, dressed in candy-striped hotpants and sporting turquoise eye shadow. It’s a nod to audience expectations, showing us the glossy side of circus – but tongues are soon firmly planted in cheeks.
All five are competent acrobats, showing off a range of tumbles to get the party started. And each has a particular skill and talent, honed through years of training and performance.
Kate smashes her own PB for most cartwheels in one minute (55), Alice is a powerful hand-balancer, Lisa has mastered the Cyr Wheel and Francesca has us all wincing as she lifts a heavy container of water with her hair.
Michelle’s speciality is trapeze, but in the absence of height, she walks and talks us through her best routine. It’s a witty, frivolous moment, but the rest of the chat here is far from shallow. Graphic descriptions of what would happen if Lisa accidentally let the Cyr Wheel run over her foot, for example, leave us in no doubt what circus artistes put themselves through for our pleasure.
Most pointedly, we’re told about a TV show one took part in, where the men were asked to show off their acrobatics, while the women had to do the splits and look pretty. So here these performers are, asserting their right to show what all that training was for. And this time it’s for them, as much as us.
• Until 27 August.