Paul Clarke – Meltdown co-founder – talks to Ali Williams, No Fit State Circus supremo and joint founder, about their roots in Meltdown and joint Birthday Party at the Point.
Meltdown began in the tiny downstairs bar at Chapter Arts Centre in 1986, and within months a bunch of five wastrels and vagabonds – Ali, Tom, Pete, Richie and Dave Id - styling themselves ‘Balls Up Jugglers’ started using our open stage to fling objects around - clubs, balls, beer glasses, knives ... Tables directly in front of the stage mysteriously emptied - just the odd tumbleweed rolling past. And then, as Meltdown experimented with gigs in the Theatre upstairs, the jugglers mounted unicycles, played with fire, mutated into No Fit State Circus and grew more and more ambitious and deluded. We’ll buy a giant circus tent, they thought. We’ll harness the skills of the whole community for ambitious circus and multi-media spectaculars. We’ll tour the world, to great acclaim, as an insanely innovative and creatively radical circus/theatre collective, winning awards and hearts wherever we go...
And now, 20 years later, we’re sharing a birthday. No Fit State Circus have grown from a bunch of jugglers into an insanely innovative and creatively radical circus/theatre collective who tour the world winning awards and hearts ... etc. Meltdown has expanded exponentially from a bunch of enthusiasts putting on weekly gigs melting down barriers between all forms of music and performance into a bunch of enthusiasts putting on monthly gigs melting down ... Ummm ... You know.
Ali Williams (aka Ali Bi) remembers the early days of No Fit State using innocent Meltdown punters as guinea pigs for their weird and wonderful routines. “I remember Tom dressed up as a tiger jumping through a hoop” she recalls. “We would try out routines at Meltdown before trying them on the public. The stage at Chapter was very small, so it was always a bit kamikaze”. I remind Ali of a particularly scary act - the ‘knife throwing-which-turns-into-juggling routine’ – during which I sat pale faced at the table in front of the stage. “I played Nick Eragua” Ali remembers, “and Dave Id played Uncle Sam throwing knives at me which I caught and threw back”. This was an appropriate political dimension to a hilarious routine as it formed part of a Meltdown benefit to help send Ali to Niceragua – to use her circus skills to bring an element of magic into the lives of children in the war zone.
“Meltdown made an immense contribution both to our development and the growth of the whole Cardiff scene. There were just loads of bands finding a space to play” Ali observes. Her favourites acts included the Howling Sleepers (featuring Chris ‘Cakehole Presley’ Ridgeway), songwriter Sian Donovan and skiffle kings Railroad Bill.
The material developed at Meltdowns – in both the Chapter Bar and the Theatre upstairs – proved a resounding success on the street and in Ali’s words ‘things just grew and grew’. Now No Fit State Circus are acclaimed as the best contemporary circus in the UK and have garnered international recognition including the The Jury Award Tarrega Festival, Spain 2005 and the ‘alternative to Perrier’ TapWater Award at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival. Out of the original 5 founders, two (Ali and Tom) are still at the heart of No Fit State. Community workshops and performances in Cardiff, and the Circus’s apprenticeship scheme, have kept the proportion of local participants high, but performers and collaborators now include acts from across the UK and beyond – including, in this years ImMortal production: Finland, Spain, France, Australia, and Austria.
And so on Saturday November 25th 2006 at the Point , these two amazing South Wales cultural forces combine for an explosive gig celebrating their joint spirit of experiment, their roots in the community, and the astonishing talents they’ve both harnessed and supported over the years. “ We’re really pleased to be able to share with Cardiff audiences some of the amazing acts we’ve toured the world with” Ali observed. No Fit State stars past and present, including Bryony Black, Queen of the hula hoops, Aerialist D’Angle; Simon Deville Tightrope walker, Dangerous Duo featuring Ali Bi and ‘Splott Brother’ Dave Id; and other Magicians, Jugglers, Stiltwalkers etc will rub shoulders with Meltdown proteges from different genres and generations. Sian Evans - the voice of dance mega-band Kosheen, Internationally renowned folk singer-songsmith Julie Murphy, acclaimed angular-indie quartet the Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club, will share the stage with local legends such as Chris Ridgeway and Captain Paranoid. And many major names and ‘new generation’ talents are still to be confirmed - all having in common the experience – like No Fit State - of using the Meltdown stage to learn their craft, experiment, collaborate and find an audience.
More Press on No Fit State Circus
“Twenty years on the road, the Cardiff-based outfit continues a radical rethink of traditional circus activities, with not an animal, wild or domestic thankfully in sight ... the sheer variety of the skills, talents and athleticism displayed ... includes trapeze, fire-eating, tumbling, juggling, bungee stunts, tightrope walking, whip cracking, acrobatics, mock fights, stilt walking, gymnastics, aerial ballet and what a girl achieves with hula hoops proves a genuine showstopper” The Stage
“Less of a show - more of an experience that will stay with you forever”” Bath Chronicle
“A no holds barred show, fusing circus, dance, music, theatre
and audio-visual” Vanity Fair
“The future of British Circus” The Guardian
Edinburgh Fringe Tap Water Awards 2005
The Jury Award Tarrega Festival, Spain 2005
Guardian UnLtd 3 weeks award 2005
|Sunday, November 19, 2006|