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An interview with Ellie Dubois on her female circus show, 'No Show'


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Since winning a Herald Angel award for its Edinburgh Fringe showings in 2017, Ellie Dubois’ No Show continues to impress and surprise audiences with its portrayal of the strength and struggles involved in female circus performances.

Ahead of its next run in the new year at Soho Theatre in London, The National Student catches up with Dubois to hear about how the image of a perfect ‘showgirl’ is unpicked and challenged in No Show.

Image: No Show, courtesy of Chris Hoyle

“I was interested in what our expectations are of female circus performers and how I could make a show with other female circus performers that challenged those expectations,” says Dubois.

“It felt like there was a lack of female-led circus work in the UK,” she continues. “I made the show that I wanted to see.”

No Show, as the show that Dubois felt was much-needed in the circus scene, is created by a woman, featuring women, celebrating female strength and resilience. This show, she says, is one “I wish I could have seen when I was training to be a circus performer”.

I could have known that there were lots of roles for me in circus - not just the lone woman in a cast of men wearing a red dress and being thrown around.”

Within the male-dominated field of circus, Dubois says of No Show that “being an all-female circus show feels like an act of rebellion in itself”.

“I think that circus has quite a traditional ideal of female beauty that often involves women not talking and just smiling and being sexy,” she says. “We are interested in challenging these ideas of female beauty to show that women are – obviously - capable of so much more than that.”

Image: Ellie Dubois

At the heart of the show is a central message that behind the smiles and slick execution of circus performances are hidden experiences of pain, struggle and disappointment.

Dubois tells us that No Show is about “pushing yourself to be the best, failing, having to do what is expected of you, the way that women are treated in circus and the world, [and] the stages that we are allowed to perform on and the space that we are allowed to take up in the industry and the world.”

When exploring the physical challenges of circus performing, Dubois was careful to ensure that the performers in No Show “don’t actually get injured on stage when they are pushing their physical limits”.

“I want the audience to see the work and the effort that the cast put in, but they also need to be able to perform night after night, so it is a balance.”

And what one thought would Dubois hope visitors leave No Show with? “That women in the UK are making shit hot circus.”

No Show will be performed at Soho Theatre, London, from Tuesday 22 January – Saturday 9 February 2019. You can find out more about No Show by visiting Ellie Dubois’ website here.    

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