sat 01/04/2023

Knee Deep, Theatre Royal, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Knee Deep, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Knee Deep, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Australian acrobatic circus troupe are truly thrilling

Casus in wild flow

Knee Deep, the show by four-person Brisbane acrobatic troupe Casus, is only an hour long but packs more eye-popping antics into its first 10 minutes than many circuses muster in three hours. Their fluid, almost faultless displays of gymnastic skill have a theatrical dynamic that’s so gripping I feel I’ve missed something vital every time I look down for a few seconds to scribble a note on what's occurring. They really are something special.

The show begins with Casus company leader (and manager) Emma Serjeant walking on eggs, a big screen above her enlarging the action. Previously Knee Deep has usually been performed in smaller spaces but the only time this was noticeable was when another member, Jesse Scott, performed a routine with a bottle and an egg at ground level which was difficult to see.

Eggs are a recurring theme. Serjeant’s initial showcase leads into an extraordinary sequence where all four performers clamber about each other, literally walking and climbing around their selves, perching on each other’s heads, throwing Serjeant back and forth, wandering along one body like a logroller in a river, a constant fluid motion that was made to look effortless. Everything is accomplished with poised grace yet, admirably, there’s much smiling and grinning, no po-faced sign-posting that “THIS IS SERIOUS ART!”, although it certainly is.

The bodies of the quartet are impressive, statuesque, classical, powerful, neither the ridiculous size zero shapes of celeb culture nor the pumped buffoonery of gym bunnies. They’re just taut and so, so, strong, two of them decorated with extensive tattoos which only add to the beauty of their movements.

The first section finishes as Serjeant places an egg in her bra, inside her gymnastic mini-dress, and climbs to the top of a totem pole of two compatriots, then drops it into a bowl below. She later does a solo routine on a device that looks like four very thin, tall bar-stools attached to a cross-shaped base. She winds herself about it like a living sculpture, balancing in improbable contortions with apparent ease, even pivoting her body on one arm.

There are amusing asides, interludes between the startling displays of physicality, such as Serjeant doing something that looked very uncomfortable with a long nail and a hammer, or diminutive, blond troupe member Lachlan MacAulay whipping up a piece of origami for the big screen behind him. Throughout it all a classy soundtrack plays – glitchy electronica, warped blues, Philip Glass-like serialism – but the real power comes from the immaculately choreographed circus work, the twisting and turning amid aerial silks, plummeting suddenly to audience gasps, or a trapeze display where all four interact, balancing in ways that defy belief, and using each other as climbing walls, all with a smoothness that belies their skill. Casus would slay a music festival.

The only moment when things seemed to come apart a bit was a section with glow-in-the-dark hula hoops, but it was rescued easily by Scott who came to the fore and pulled off a series of moves that more than distracted. Meanwhile much applause was reserved for Natano Fa’anana, a performer of Samoan origin with extensive body art to prove it. He was stripped to his boxers by his associates in a rather sensual manner, then performed a percussive routine of body-slaps, from chest to bum-cheeks, which was both comic and potent, especially as he sped up and the rest of Casus became involved.

There was much more and the eggs returned towards the end, but it seems churlish to give the game away. Suffice to say Casus provided the Brighton Festival with amazing entertainment before blasting their audience with a spotlight and taking a well-deserved bow. I hope and expect to hear much more of this lot.

Watch promo trailer for Knee Deep

The initial showcase leads into an extraordinary sequence where all four performers clamber about each other


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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