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The fetchingly scruffy theatre of Bristol’s Cube Multiplex filled thick and fast for the screening of Naomi Smyth’s indie film documentary ‘No Dress Rehearsal’. The great unwashed of Stokes Croft and surrounding arty pods filed in to enjoy the micro-funded piece filmed from 2006 to 2010 in and around the venues taken over by the Invisible Circus performance troupe.
The audience kept the spirit of the infamous film alive by attending in ball gowns and tuxedoes, seemingly sourced from decidedly second hand venues, and other bonkers costumes from shell suits to snorkels. One woman inexplicably carried a Liza Minelli face masque. The viewing itself was no let down, the crowd repeatedly cheering familiar faces and jeering at the bad guys: in this case, the evil property developers, and it soon became clear that this was more than just a film. This was a gathering of celebration of a group of people who seem to have taken on ‘the man’ and won..to an extent. Excellently paced and with transparency and humour, Smyth has managed to capture the highs and lows of a family of friends living the dream of free space and (cheaper) art for all. Taking on squats of increasing sizes all over Bristol, these intimidatingly experienced practitioners joined to create live art installations accessible to the public in the most impossible situations. Toxic bird shit seems to have be one of the most hated elements. Facing challenges from bailiffs, the encroaching Cabot Circus Development, BCC, the Police and ultimately themselves, the Invisible Circus built spaces out of ruins, fed themselves out of skips and created art out of the things others throw away. From the Audi Garage in 2006 to the stunning Dog Island ‘Carnyville’ in 2010, the performances are now legendary. You don’t have to believe all they believe in, but you cannot help but admire the audacity and integrity of these artistes, captured with humour, love and clarity by the charming Smyth. Highly recommended.

Words: Helen Brown
Photo: Paul Blakemore