Lexicon (Royal Botanic Gardens) – theatre review

You’re in for a treat of subversive circus at its finest when you see Lexicon at a specially constructed tent in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens (opposite the Shrine of Remembrance).

Twelve accomplished performers produce the unexpected … and I couldn’t be more pleased. This isn’t the stuff of tired circus acts that have been done to death. No, this is circus for the whole family to delight in. Lexicon is the latest offering from the UK’s leading large-scale contemporary circus company, NoFit State Circus from Cardiff.

Three sets of three old-style desks and seats joined together as if on skis, kick off proceedings. “Naughty” children sitting on the seats act up, throw paper planes and chuck paper at one another. In no time, they’re airborne, accompanied by sounds that appear to simulate crashing waves.

A man walks awkwardly into the limelight as if hobbled by his leg extensions and proceeds to display his dexterity and strength. Hula hoops, large enough to “carry” a splayed man, become playthings for a trio who try to outdo each another. A woman in an ungainly dress walks a tightrope, does the splits and is even seemingly comfortable upside down. A variety of wheeled contraptions – penny farthings, a low-rise tricycle, a three-wheeler sporting a toilet bowl, a unicycle and many more – make quite an entry.

It’s organised mayhem on stage. Juggling three pieces of round cloth can’t be easy, nor can getting dressed while riding a unicycle. The latter was a definite highlight for me. So, too, playing dodgem cars with desks that were commonplace in the 1950s, the only concession being that wheels have been added to make them glide smoothly. Juggling fire may be one thing, but deliberately setting yourself alight is another entirely.

Now for something completely different. Imagine a row of some 60 wine glasses lined up on a thin wooden board above six bench seats. But wait, we haven’t got to the trick yet. That’s left to the unicyclist, who takes his craft to the stems of the glasses riding so, so precariously over the lot without breaking sweat.

A super 8-piece band plays original music to accompany the various acts.

Lexicon is a show perverse and pleasurable. It’s bold, exciting and above all, heaps of fun. Directed by Firenza Guidi, it’s playing at the Royal Botanic Gardens until 21 October 2018.

Alex First

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