Tom Rack is the Artistic Director of NoFit State Circus. Here he discusses the company and his long term association with The Roundhouse.
The relationship between NoFit State and the Roundhouse, started with Rack seeing the De La Guarda original troupe:
[It was] hugely inspiring to me personally and as an external reference for the emerging UK contemporary circus scene. It opened my mind with what you can do with an audience – it was brilliant, it was bonkers and crazy and the Roundhouse was a perfect venue for that show. It was really significant.
NoFit Circus is self-described as a community Circus – this relates both to the wider outreach and community involvement of the company but also in the way they relate to each other and the work they make. Based in Cardiff the company have professional training spaces and a strong community network with other professionals. They have outreach projects and see this connection as part of the roots and anchor of the company. Part of why fostering this community involvement has been so important is the distance of their base from the rest of the industry.
Rack describes how:
In the early days it felt like a circus cultural bubble down here – but this helped us develop our own style and approach and let us make something different. A bit unique and special.
The disconnection informed their artistic work and practice but also allowed them to build a circus scene.
Celebrating their 30th birthday in 2016, NoFit State are a big part of Cardiff becoming a UK circus destination. With artists moving to be a part of the work that the company makes and become a part of the teaching and performing community.
Community also reflects the company as a travelling community – NoFit State are the biggest contemporary circus in the UK touring in the big top. They prize keeping the tradition that circus is not just an art but a lifestyle. Rack believes that living together and travelling together creates something that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
In 2007 NoFit State toured to the Roundhouse with their show Immortal. True to their community circus way of living they brought everything and everyone to the venue.
With Immortal – we brought our village – kitchen, community and caravans and planted that in the Roundhouse Carpark. It was the first time we had ever been in someone’s back yard so to speak. The staff got to experience all of our world. We were there living with them and working with them. They were seeing us doing our laundry and having our dinner. We’ve done that a few other places [since] but the spirit and ethos of the Roundhouse was so welcoming and open to that it was really special.
It’s interesting for a company that creates contemporary work to be embedded in the idea of a traditional travelling circus family trope. But it isn’t just a romantic notion, it gives the work a soul and a heart that is central to the company. They have built on the collective nature of the circus in a way that draws the company even further together as a performance troupe.
We bring the riggers to the front – it becomes a double act. The relationship between the rigger and artist is really important (as another performer) in this particular scene. We don’t leave the tent, don’t leave the stage – we are there all the time for two hours. If it is not your moment, you are supporting.
Community is very much a part of the art, the company and how they interact with the audience and the world.
Rack is a big fan of CircusFest and the work the Roundhouse does with supporting artists to develop new work. He makes it clear that the venue has “done a lot for the image of contemporary circus” and that the affection he holds for this “beautiful and amazing venue” glows. NoFit State truly see it as their “spiritual home in London.” How fitting that both are celebrating such significant anniversaries in 2016.