Billing itself as "a spectacular display of choreography, acrobatics, trapeze and aerial stunts", Knee Deep is exceptional contemporary circus. Realised by a troupe of four performers – Jesse Scott, Lachlan McAulay, Vincent Van Berkel and Abbey Church – it is a show which tests the limits of what the human body is capable of.
At its most ambitious, Knee Deep finds danger and exhilaration in deceptively simple setups – the tension, balance and strength required for three or four people to stand on each other's shoulders. But this show also involves difficult and well-timed sequences that are almost like ballet, if ballet involved climbing over someone's sternum and then stepping on their head. It can be elegant, beautiful, and highly co-ordinated, that is, but just as often it is about acts of brute force and dexterity.
I couldn't find a whole lot to fault. There could be a little bit more thematic substance to hold the set-pieces together, which can sometimes be sweet or silly or moving, but have little to connect them together. And I found it difficult to spy any of the floor work, even though I was just three rows back.
My composer composer/musician/music-theorist friend, however, complained about the music on a curative level. The choices in music, according to him, were not selected carefully enough to achieve balance, and not diverse enough to be eclectic. But these are the pedantries of a man better versed in these matters than most punters – they did nothing to bring me out of the experience or ruin the atmosphere.
And what an experience it was. I was wholly wrapped up in this show; by turns delighted, awed, moved, amused, frightened and charmed. These performers are at the top of their game, and I would recommend this show to anyone seeking out an engrossing, subtle and powerful example of theatre-informed circus.