Finding the Silence
Judith Wright Centre
Judith Wright Centre
August 16 – 23 2014
Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway
A circus performer has to find a moment of inner silence before every trick, time to focus, release tension, prepare, breathe.
Jesse Scott, Casus Circus
On the surface, Casus Circus’s new show Finding the Silence doesn’t seem to be about silence. There is a soundtrack (David Carberry), and the performers at times create noise by deliberately thudding and crashing to the ground, and letting props fall noisily.
The program notes make clear that the theme is inner silence: for example, the circus performer needing to find inner silence to focus before every trick. Inner silence is hard to demonstrate through a circus performance except by showing us this concentration. We in the audience experience it from our perspective, sitting in silence and holding our breath as we wait for the climax of a routine, and then applauding in admiration and relief.
The hour-long show starts with one of the performers rotating slowly on the spot. After some time, he lifts his arms. The turning is reminiscent of Sufi whirling, a form of active meditation. While it could be one method of “finding the silence”, it isn’t very engaging for the spectator.
All four performers (Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay and Vincent Van Berkel) then perform various raw-looking tumbling and acrobatic routines, often ending movements by crashing awkwardly and deliberately to the floor. The show ended in the same way. Is this about not finding the silence?
In the body of the show, there are many sequences demonstrating amazing feats: for example, of hand balancing, static trapeze work (including hanging by the back of the head), and aerial rope work. The performers build a human tower by standing on each other’s shoulders; they make a human seesaw out of their own bodies; and stand on the head of another person standing upright.
I was most impressed with the performers’ strength — particularly when Serjeant and McAulay, the smallest members of the group, lift the heftier men. Some of the balances seem impossible: for example, when Van Berkel stands on both hands and then bends his body to take the legs sideways and stand on one hand.
This is raw, no frills circus — you can see the strain, and the performers trembling with effort.
The show’s visual presentation is spartan and minimalist. The performers wear simple white jodhpur-style pants and there are few props — some chairs, planks and small lanterns. The stage is dimly lit during preparation for sequences.
Finding the Silence is an intense experience, with great feats of strength and balance applauded enthusiastically by the audience. What it is not is slick or showy, and there is certainly no frivolity. The link with the theme of inner silence is more an intellectual one, rather than expressed through the physicality of the actual performance. Finding the Silence must finish Saturday.