Knee Deep, Brisbane Powerhouse, September 24.
THE four members of Casus, a small Brisbane contemporary circus troupe formed in 2011, have a slightly perverse way of claiming attention. They are, of course, ferociously talented. But so are very many others in this art form, which takes circus tricks and dresses them up with elements from music, theatre, comedy and dance. Unlike others, the Casus performers have what seems to be genuinely unaffected personal modesty. Their acts may be as gasp-inducing as the next circus virtuoso’s but there’s no pretention or triumphalism in the way they are presented. Casus’s Knee Deep is a sweet, affecting show.
Knee Deep opens with Emma Serjeant walking on eggs, a feat shown in close-up on a screen used occasionally and not entirely successfully during the 60-minute piece. We get the idea, though. Life is fragile, a notion Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay and Natano Fa’anana proceed to demonstate via some exceptionally spiffy, mostly dangerous acts. Want to see a supine man flipped 180 degrees via his head? It’s here, along with the expected routines – ropes, pedestals, balance, strength, tumbling, people twirled and thrown as if pieces of pizza dough, that sort of thing.
Casus also has a few unexpected tricks. Scott gives a luminous example of hoop work: he uses just one hoop, not 15 whizzing around every part of the body, and it’s a delight. In a cone of light, Fa’anana presents an intricate Samoan slapping and stamping dance; McAuley walks across the shoulders and entwined arms of his colleagues; Serjeant pokes a slender rod right up her nose and then expels it (okay, that bit I didn’t like so much, but at least she doesn’t make a huge deal of it).
Knee Deep would feel tighter with a better integrated score. You can’t fault Casus for using Gil Scott-Heron’s super strong New York is Killing Me for Fa’anana’s magisterial aerial turn on the silk ropes, but then a crooning French ballad?
But this is a small point in light of Knee Deep’s finale, in which all four work a single trapeze in many daring and beautiful combinations. It illustrates comprehensively the way much contemporary circus aspires to be an aesthetic experience rather than a purely physical one.