A lot of cleaning up is required during Puffball, an intriguing, unsettling, ultimately joyful circus piece developed by artist Mark Storor. A man cocooned on a trapeze elbows his way out of his clingfilm chrysalis, spilling fake blood on the floor. Two teens in a bath gleefully shower the stage with bits of broken Barbie dolls. Later, the trapeze man is pursued on hands and knees by assailants who feast on his body and spit red liquid into the air.
The show, premiering at CircusFest 2014 before travelling to Doncaster and Manchester, draws on three years of workshops with young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LBTGQ). Adolescence is a messy business; being made to feel abnormal as a result of your sexuality only intensifies it. Storor's young collaborators, mingling with professional circus performers, express isolation, misunderstanding, humiliation and rejection. No wonder there's a bit of mopping up. But there are moments of fun, flirtation and easy intimacy, as well as scenes of triumph. "This is who I am," exults one participant, liberated from high heels and surgical bandages. "Take a good fucking look."
It's a long show, and there are longueurs. Some of the circus acts, though dazzling, feel beside the point. A band fills the slower passages with eerie jazz. Towards the end, gypsy horns swell and the action picks up. Stilettos are set alight and used for fire-breathing; acrobats splash between bathtubs dangling high above the stage. What these spectacles mean is not always evident. But even if the original stories remain obscure to us, the images they've inspired linger on in the memory – not so easily tidied away.
• Puffball: sexuality under circus's big top
• Naked juggling and hair-hanging: CircusFest - in pictures