As NoFit State Circus prepares to perform at the Eden Project later this month we were invited for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the life of a circus performer.
The critically-acclaimed company will debut its new show, Bianco, at the venue this summer. The show is being written and directed by Firenza Guidi and produced by Tom Rack of NoFit State and Tom Critchley of the Eden Project. The same team brought NoFit State's sell-out show Labyrinth to Eden last year.
As members of the 50-strong company rehearsed yesterday we were allowed in for a taste of what the show will hold. The performance is still being developed but it is clear that audiences are in for a joyful, exhilarating spectacle.
It was difficult to know where to look next as the performers scrambled all over the scaffolding, calling to each other as they dangled from ropes and trapezes, leapt onto trampolines and balanced from bars.
The skill and sheer strength on display was awe-inspiring and, even in the five minutes or so that we saw, there was obviously a story emerging. Later, producer Tom Rack said he thought it was the artistry of NoFit State that sets them apart from other acts, explaining that they aim to take the audience on a journey.
Then it was our turn to have a go, starting with some hula-hooping. Swinging trapeze and hula-hoop artist Adie Delaney showed us how to spin the hoops behind our backs and around our hands before talking us through some variations on the classic midriff circling move.
These included the "Shakira" – spinning the hoop around your hips – the "Michael Jackson" – around your knees - and the "Beyonce" – around your chest. Sadly, our flailing movements as we attempted to follow her demonstrations were more reminiscent of a fish out of water than an international pop star.
Clearly a career in hula-hooping was not beckoning, so next we were hoisted into the air one by one to try out bungee trapeze. This involved being strapped into a harness to which two bungee cords were then attached, one on either side.
Just bouncing up and down 30ft in the air was exciting enough – as the cords release at the end of a bounce and send you back up towards the roof you really do feel as though you're flying. But I was then talked into trying a few somersaults.
Going backwards was OK – you lean back and bring your knees up to your chest and gravity does the rest. But my attempts at rolling forward left me dangling helplessly upside down until someone on the ground gave me a helpful push.
It was hard work and after just a few minutes in the harness I could feel the strain on my legs where they were circled tightly by the straps. I was lowered to the floor with even more respect for the performers, who are clearly absolutely dedicated to their art. And, as fun as it was, I don't think I'll be running away with the circus anytime soon.
Bianco begins on July 28 and will take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays until September 2. For tickets visit www.edenproject.com.