CASUS: Knee Deep
Circus for a New World
As shallow sounding as it is, the first thing that struck me about Casus' "Knee Deep" which I was treated to at the Judith Wright Centre on the 5th of June was that it was a compilation of everything I certainly and absolutely can not do. This is enough to immediately capture the attention, the imagination and win praise. On display are four supreme talents and exhibits of athleticism and first-rate acrobats, who make what is well outside the realms of possibility even for a gym junkie like myself, look easy and effortless. The performers; Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay and Fa'anana are consummate professionals, poised, elegant, skillful and not in any way show-boats (although their skills could easily allow them to be) the perform feats of daring and physical power and grace that are well and truly a delight to be seen and they represent our rising stars in the world of circus performance and physical theatre.
The subjects of their "Knee Deep" appear to be fragility counterbalanced against strength, a world of imagination, curiosity and seeming new life with innocence and child-like fascination. The show opens with Emma Serjeant balancing both on cartons of eggs and her co-performers, testing their resistance. After several scenes of electric physical feats, including balance, flips, turns, hand-stands and aerial feats the show changes in tempo again with the performers creating an origami crane, which seems at first glance out of place with the rest of the play, but when considered this is another act of physical dexterity juxtaposed something of fragile beauty. The performance revolves on an axis of contrasting physical forces and elements in our universe, the fragile is shown to have strength, the strong is shown to be at the mercy of forces that are stronger than it is (such as gravity), the child-like innocence displayed by the performers and the lack of any spoken text is contrasted against their obvious extreme skill in their feats.
It is in this way I feel that "Knee Deep" is, as much a work of first-rate contemporary circus, to be a meditation on the essential nature of the universe and of contrasting forces. Constantly here, the players test, retest, redefine, deconstruct and reconstruct the laws of physics, push and pull, to and fro, animus and anima, light and darkness, space and solid are all on display here and more than display they are the playthings of the performance as they are explored, sometimes taken apart and consistently re-evaluated.
The stark minimalism of the set combined with an edgy electronic soundtrack and the unclad physiques of the performers gives the show a sort of other worldly or, perhaps more aptly, a futuristic appeal. In a sense I felt that I was watching a show from the future of inter-stellar travel and gene splicing and much of the aesthetic of the show, particularly its' look and feel and its' wanderings around the laws of physics gave it a kind of Auldous Huxley "Brave New Word" meets "Gattaca" sensibility. It certainly appealed to me as a glimpse of what entertainment of the future might look like where language has taken a back seat to feats of the physical; both the physical body and the physics of the universe. It is as if these ideas are now the subjects of the performance which serves the play well and places it in a new world, or a future time when such things are of increased and extreme interest to us.
I praise not only the physical feats of the performers, which to be called admirable, would be an understatement. But also their vision to enter into a world where the world itself and the rules and forces that govern it are the subjects of performance, it is very forward thinking, very imaginative and very schick and cool. I look forward to seeing work of this kind developed to explore these things even further.
CASUS: KNEE DEEP is showing until the 9th of June at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Tickets available: http://www.judithwrightcentre.com/02_cal/details.asp?ID=1086