Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Firenza Guidi's Immotal

“Roll up! Roll Up! Gasp at the 360 degree immersive experience! Enter the afterlife in a performance with full on duende! Revel at the husky, seedy synaesthesia of it all! The sensual mix of colour, music, touch and even taste!” Ah, yes, circus barkers aren’t what they used to be.

Take for example Firenza Guidi, the Milan-born performer, director and circus visionary behind the latest show from NoFit State Circus. She makes quite a case when it comes to talking up a storm for Immortal: The Gasworks, the latest show from the Welsh “post- circus” troupe.

Guidi first came to Ireland in the 1980s, on foot of a British scholarship, to attend Queens’. “At the time I was completely obsessed with Irish literature and Irish theatre,” says Guida. “So when I applied for the grant everyone else was saying they wanted to go to Cambridge or Oxford, or London. But I picked Belfast.”

After shifting her base to Wales she eventually came into contact with a group keen to establish a new circus company in Wales. Inspired by the like of Bread and Puppet Theatre and the early Cirque de Soleil, or Canada’s Cirque Eloise, or the blood ‘n’ guts of the French punk circus, Archaos, they wanted to work in a style that used traditional circus skills to entirely new dramatic ends.

Guidi created her first show with NoFit State circus – which is based in Cardiff – in 1995. But it was some years before she was reunited with the company and working on the multi-part, multi-year show, Immortal.

“That time the company had basically spent building a reputation and raising the funds to buy the tent…the tent was required for aesthetic reason, of course. But it also gave them a realistic way to tour, with their own readymade venue…”

Naturally, no ordinary circus tent would do. After all, if the “new circus” movement was to see the replacement of the ‘tamed beasts’ and the ringmaster, with something less nineteenth century, their tent would have to reflect it. And so it did.

“It’s is a big silver space ship. So it really causes an impression when you first see it there, twinkling away.” says Guidi, whose blend of Milanese and Cardiff accent makes her sound remarkably like Bjork.

Immortal, which is now in its fourth incarnation, was originally based on a book by the Portuguese 1998 Noble Prize-winner, Jose Saramago, called The Cave. This circus, then, has a story.

“It’s about a place where people go who are dead but not yet ready to go, to move on. It’s a place where they can get to do things that they didn’t do in life. Here, finally, they can do them…”

The third version of the show, called ImMortal: The Rooftops, was seen around Ireland last year. But this time around, audience will be treated to ImMortal: The Gasworks. “I live in Cardiff Bay and it is based on a building I see almost every day….which lead to create what we can the doughnut, a kind of raised 360 degree platform.”

“I’m never excited by skills in themselves, but more in something the Spanish call duende. It’s when something is not necessarily the most polished, but has some rawness that is riveting to watch. I hope Immoral has that...”

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