As dusk starts to fall at the close of a hot May day, the crowd milling around the grass outside of the Spiegeltent starts to form into an unruly queue. This is the last week of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, and one of the final performances of the Australian Casus Circus’ performance Driftwood. Casus have performed this show at various events, leaving audiences speechless at both the Underbelly festival and the Edinburgh fringe, and the crowd here is rearing to be let in. Eventually we can enter, past the brightly dressed ushers and into the dark of the Spiegeltent.
Once inside, it takes a moment for our eyes to adjust to the gloom and the disconcerting mirrors reflecting off every surface. Next, we must choose between sitting in the secluded booths around the edge of the tent or the rows of seats surrounding the circular stage. Eventually everyone is seated and the crowd waits.
When the troupe walk onto the stage one by one to the hypnotic ‘Penty Harmonium’ by Aphex Twin, they seem almost like normal people going about their lives. Three men and two women. Yet a switch in the music to the ‘The Porch’ by Beats Antique flips this preconception upside-down as they break into seamless acrobatics, moving simultaneously as individuals and a collective. The show centres around a red lamp which descends towards the stage at intervals, providing an outside force with which the performers interact. While performing incredible feats with an aerial hoop, rope and swings, it is the connection between these performers which makes this show stand out. The human interactions which shape us are played out before our eyes in a physical yet delicate fashion. Soon the performers lose their clothing save their leotards, emphasising the pared-back and innate feeling of this performance. Just as we forget the outside world, the performers take us on a very vulnerable and internal journey.
Each performer has an individual section, which start with the descending red lamp. The performers all interact with the lamp differently, some completely ignoring it and appearing to meditate beneath it, others playing with the fact that it moves away the closer they get to it. These individual sections often morph into incredible acrobatic feats, such as the breath-taking moment when Shannon Vitali is swinging in an aerial hoop high above us all to Katie Noonan & Karin Schaupp’s version of ‘Heart’s a mess’. Often another performer will join these individuals during their act, and as all of the performers throw out such a dynamic presence this invariably changes the tone of the act and takes the section in a whole other direction. The music is as an important force throughout this performance, featuring mostly acoustic and cyclic tracks (two pieces by Aphex Twin and one by Bonobo). The simplicity of the music enhances the natural feel of the performance, quite apart from any preconceived notions of showy or extravagant circus performances.
Words By Erin Bradshaw
Photo By Dylan Evans