NOFIT STATE have earned their place as the UK’s leading circus companies, and bring characteristic high production values and flamboyant flourish to the opening night of Brighton Festival.

The contemporary company may not do silly clowns in face paint, but Lexicon is big on physical comedy and subversive riffs on familiar circus set-ups.

Led by a large cast of colourful characters, we see a trio of Italian jesters japing around the big top with acrobatic ease, spinning in a cyr wheel and whooping like seasick sailors.

The bicycle is a reccurring and ingeniously used prop, with gawky Sam haplessly prone to pranks from the Italians, but coming out on top in a glorious set piece involving a suit and a unicycle.

The can they/can’t they repartee is a constant, and like the best Disney or Pixar films, the acts are riotous for youngsters, the parents and their grandparents alike.

Slapstick aside, there are some breath-taking solo pieces – a “drunken” woman showing immense strength and poise on the ropes, shedding her heavy robes and boots from a great height.

It is brilliantly soundtracked by a live band, whose proto vintage attire blends seamlessly in with the physical performers, and who play mournful ballads and gypsy folk stomps.

There is little in the way of solid narrative – not that it needs it – though themes of childish abandon, rebelliousness and liberation reappear.

A stunning opening to the festival, and sure-fire early highlight, with a show almost overgenerous in its sheer volume of acts, gags and feats.