Knee Deep at Riverside Studios
Circus performance has gone through something of a re-branding in the last 20 years or so. Where there were once lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) there are now acrobats swirling gracefully through the sky to contemporary dance music. Led by the seemingly unstoppable Cirque de Soleil, this trend for graceful and jaw-dropping feats of human strength and endurance shows no sign of abating.
Casus, the quartet of acrobats responsible for Knee Deep, their premiere work, take many of the traits of a Cirque de Soleil performance and make them more intimate. Performed in the round on a simple black stage, the three men and one woman that make up Casus are here to make acrobatics look effortless, as they swoop and tumble from one gravity-defying contortion to the next.
Whether you enjoy this sort of performance or not depends on what you want from circus. If freakish spectacle and dare-devil behaviour are more your thing, then you might be better off at a cabaret show like La Clique, as while there is some freakish behaviour on display here (namely Emma Serjeant hammering a nail into her nostril), this show is more about grace than the grotesque. The problem with channelling acrobatics into this very narrow field of vision though, is that it can all become a bit monotonous. While you cannot deny the sheer physical prowess that the performers possess, once you’ve seen one man tie himself up and helter-skelter through the air on a ribbon, you’ve really seen them all. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to gape at, particularly when the lone woman of the group balances all three men on her shoulders, and one of the men balances on a trapeze bar on his head.
The four clearly trust each other with their lives, and the bond between them all is physically expressed with the interlocking of limbs and eyes throughout the show. Their aim is to examine their fragility as well as their superhuman strength, and this they achieve as they help one another to walk on eggs and scale new heights.
One of the night’s most interesting moments comes with a break in the music, when we hear for the first time the grunts and strains the performers are actually making, and we realise, that they, like us, are human after all.
Knee Deep is at Riverside Studios until 22nd June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.