Knee Deep: In brief
The Australian circus quartet Casus drops into—and bounces around at—the New Vic with a family-friendly hour-long spectacle that explores themes of strength and fragility.
Knee Deep: Theater review by Raven Snook
The problem with circus shows today is that there are so damn many of them—it’s like they keep tumbling out of clown cars. Every time a new one swings into town, it has the unenviable challenge of showing audiences something they’ve never seen before, or at least not just last week.
Knee Deep, the debut production from Brisbane, Australia’s new Casus company, immediately stands out by being totally stripped down. No set, no flashy costumes and no convoluted story. Instead, the spotlight shines solely on the four talented performers: Natano Fa’anana, Lachlan McAulay, Jesse Scott and Emma Serjeant, all versatile industry vets who’ve worked with some of the most cutting-edge troupes in the circus biz. In their taut one-hour display of strength, dexterity and cleverness, they certainly earn the audience’s undivided attention.
The no-tech spectacle starts out with Serjeant, one of the most impressive female circus performers I’ve ever seen, literally walking on eggshells. Later, she stands as the base of a human tower as the men perch atop her shoulders and hang off her body. Like those delicate eggs (which keep popping up throughout the show), she is the embodiment of transformation, something light and delicate that’s capable of becoming strong and vibrant.
There are other memorable solo turns—Scott’s romantic pas de deux with an egg, Fa’anana showing off his intricate Samoan tribal tattoos while drumming on his abdomen—but Knee Deep is a collaborative work at heart. Whenever the four cast members get together, they defy the physical limits of their individual bodies by pulling, pushing, twisting, turning, balancing and walking all over each other (even on each other's heads, which always gets laughs).
Although there are plenty of “no way!” moments, the most breathtaking stunt comes during the climax, when Serjeant dangles upside down off the static trapeze while Scott does a headstand on top of the bar—without holding onto the ropes. Your instinct is to cheer, but you stay silent for fear of breaking the spell.—Theater review by Raven Snook