Knee Deep | CasusKnee Deep’s initial run at Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre has become the stuff of local industry legend over the past year. It’s not hard to see why. Casus‘ debut work, Knee Deep features stunts that even those intimately familiar with and accustomed to contemporary circus will find dazzling.

However, there’s a sense that it’s still not the work Casus actually hope to deliver. A young ensemble, Casus are truly phenomenal technicians. As artists, they’re still germinating. Throughout Knee Deep, there are consistent hints that Casus‘ ambitions are not just to dazzle but to challenge, move and provoke. And, while they’re very much on the right track, they haven’t quite figured out how to craft their work in that regard just yet.

This is not to downplay or devalue Knee Deep’s considerable appeal. It’s a genuinely breathtaking show from an incredible ensemble of performers. Even in a profession wherein astonishing is a prerequisite, Casus‘ performers are truly astonishing. In addition to brilliant technicians, they’re also talented, funny and dramatic entertainers. There will be very few who will leave Knee Deep not thoroughly entertained (and/or gobsmacked).

It’s just that Casus seem to be striving for something else. There are threads of themes littered throughout the work. There are tiny vignettes that have no grounding in circus or spectacle. The sheer amount of music blasted from stage (a new piece for nearly every single scene) seems to speak of an ensemble striving for poignancy and depth. While they get close, their work’s best elements are still its acrobatics.

There are a couple of things that hold the work back. Technologically, Knee Deep feels raw. Tonight’s music is blasted entirely too loud and mixed haphazardly from scene-to-scene. Their lighting is diffuse and blurry. When utilised, their multimedia is relatively lo-fi (and somewhat extraneous). Beyond issues of successful implementation, Casus also seem to lack a certain degree of taste.

A lot of Knee Deep is unnecessary. The work doesn’t need that much music, for example. Similarly, there are lot of standard circus tricks that really feel quite superfluous alongside the ensemble’s more inventive work. Casus seem to have simply thrown every single idea at their disposal onto stage for their debut show. It makes for an entertaining work but it obscures their themes of human frailty and detracts from the beauty of their work overall.

This is not to say Casus aren’t capable of pathos. There are some beautiful and beautifully strange moments. A childish duel between hula hooping acrobats. A serenade to an egg. They’re just not capable of consistently teasing it out yet. They’re still developing as artisans. They’ve got a strong voice as an ensemble. In contrast to contemporary circus outfits like Circa, Casus are striving for something more romantic; jagged and passionate.

Often, Knee Deep feels like it’s caught between worlds. In time, you can see Casus navigating their work into an area shared by contemporary dance and contemporary theatre. Somewhere thematically rich, full of movement, fun and sophistication. As it stands, they’re still figuring out how to get to that place. Which is actually fine. They’re more than entertaining enough as performers to sustain interest until they get there.    

Brisbane Festival presents
Knee Deep

Venue: Powerhouse Theatre | 119 Lamington St, New Farm
Dates: 24 – 27 Sep, 2013
Tickets: $40 – $35

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