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Casus, Finding the Silence, photo Sean Young, SYC Studios Casus, Finding the Silence, photo Sean Young, SYC Studios
The perilous follow-up to a smash hit is the subject of David Burton and Claire Christian’s new play Hedonism’s Second Album for La Boite Indie and the reality for Brisbane circus collective Casus (Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay & Vincent Van Berkel). Finding the Silence is the latter’s follow-up to their internationally acclaimed Knee Deep and there was a palpable sense of anticipation at the Judith Wright Centre premiere.

Director and ensemble member Jesse Scott described the show as being about “that moment of inner silence before every trick...In that moment of solitude you are truly alive and aware, defying danger, fear, gravity.” Program notes can sometimes be abstruse or pretentious but in typical Casus understatement, these words sum up beautifully the experience of watching the show and its aesthetic of austere and vulnerable contemplation. Unlike the warm earth and honey tones of Knee Deep, Finding the Silence has clearly been infected by the white lights of hotel corridors, the low horizons of European winters and the craving for stillness in a ‘whirlwind’ of touring.

The work begins with a stripped-back stage, covered by a long rectangular training mat and a bank of lights to the right. Dan Carberry’s subtle score works underneath the action of the bodies, almost imperceptibly, resisting dramatic peaks and at key moments in the show almost falling away, like sound sometimes does when you close your eyes. You watch, engrossed as the flow of bodies passes before you, solo and duo mostly, with two or three climactic group routines that mark the half-way and then the endpoint of the show.

While founding Casus member Natano Fa’anana is sadly missed due to injury, newbie ensemble member Vincent Van Berkel maintains the intense, almost loving complicity that exists between each member of Casus. You feel like you are watching private moments as the tricks build from sequences on the mat to a bench and a gobsmacking aerial routine. There are blindfolds, cartwheels and spinning bodies. Yet somehow each extraordinary sequence, while it showcases a gently implacable strength from each of the performers, eschews the razzle-dazzle of ostentatious circus ‘stand and deliver’ tricks. The show felt to me like circus for circus-makers: complex, self-referential and tautly disciplined.

This is such a brave choice for that critical follow-up work. Casus has not sought to repeat a formula for success, to regurgitate Knee Deep in any discernible way. The sequences felt fresh and distinctive and this is the hallmark of true artistic risk-taking. While I suspect that Finding the Silence may not have the same popular appeal as Knee Deep it cements Casus’ place in Australian circus as a powerhouse of innovation, risk-taking and integrity.

Hedonism’s Second Album, La Boite Indie Hedonism’s Second Album, La Boite Indie
Another new powerhouse on the local Brisbane scene is the playwriting team of David Burton and Claire Christian. Hedonism’s Second Album follows Sumo, Chimney, Michael and Gareth and their rapacious band manager Charlie as she pushes them to pump out their second album in the space of a week to placate their furious record company after a recording of the band trashing the studio appears on the internet.

The show belts along at rapid-fire pace. Band members harangue, comfort, confess to and manipulate one another. The unreconstructed Australian male drummer, Sumo, steals the show with all the best lines and a surprising tenderness for his closeted band-mate, Michael, who is unable to break away from a violent relationship. Yet the other men, ostensibly less damaged, seem to evade deeper investigation. I think this is because the plot is driven largely by band clichés, aka the lead songwriter wants to go solo, the drummer isn’t good enough and the girl breaks up the band (almost). What lifts the work into something arresting is both the superb directorial work of Margi Brown Ash and the quality of the writing. Ash makes the bodies on stage seem one beast, moving, snarling, bouncing, holding each other with fierce intensity. This is matched by a vernacular that sounds like flat naturalism but is rich with a kind of generational cadence—an attack that exploits the vernacular of band grunge and pushes it into a dark poetry of masculinity in crisis. Both Finding the Silence and Hedonism’s Second Album were full-blooded works that confirmed the talent of their creative teams and their promising futures.


Casus, Finding the Silence, performer-creators Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAuley, Vincent Van Berkel, director Jesse Scott, sound design Dan Carberry, lighting Rob Scott, Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts, 15-23 Aug; La Boite Indie, Hedonism’s Second Album, writers David Burton, Claire Christian, director Margi Brown Ash, performers Patrick Dwyer, Gavin Edwards, Nicholas Gell, Thomas Hutchins, Ngoc Phan, designer Josh McIntosh, lighting Ben Hunt, La Boite, Brisbane, 13-30 Aug

RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 35

© Kathryn Kelly; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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