The 2017 Underbelly Festival presented the London-premiere of Australian circus company’s thrilling new show Driftwood. Coming into London as part of their UK tour of the show, Driftwood received rave reviews at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and features more of Casus’ unique acrobatic shapes that won them thunderous praise for their previous show Knee Deep.
Driftwood is an intimate circus experience. Seated in the front row, the show began with all five performers showing off as a group their combined strengths and individual technical know-how. Forming various human pyramids, the troupe really showed off their creativity and showmanship by coming up with several shapes we never expected, and really took the art to new heights.
In the acts that followed, the troupe split into smaller groups or individual acts to further spotlight their individual strengths. In one act, Jon Bonaventura and David Trappes showcased their strength and flexibility as they vaulted onto and off each other, precise and nimble with their movements and poise. In a hula hoop act, Shannon Vitali, Sarah McDougall and Bonaventura maintained perfect control of the hoops, a graceful act that seemed effortless in their hands. Trappes also returned later on in a particularly impressive trapeze act, as he precariously balanced just his head on a trapeze bar while swinging through the air upside down, a testament to his mastery over his own body. Quickly finding his centre of gravity each time, the act felt like an exercise in physics, and everything was calculated and rehearsed to perfection, drawing whoops and wows from the audience.
A stand-out performer for us was Sarah McDougall who was the most heavily involved in most of the acts. A powerful woman, the ease with which she lifted her fellow performers would put most men to shame. Although her skin glistened with sweat, Sarah remained a pillar of strength throughout the performance, maintaining a smile on her face that warmed our hearts and impressed us with her showmanship.
The final act of Driftwood really puts meaning to the show’s title – although they had temporarily separated to perform their own individual acts, eventually, all five performers came together again for the final hurrah, much like actual driftwood always finding its way back to shore. Their final act reminded us once again of the troupe’s amazing cohesiveness, and an unbreakable camaraderie. The big top may have been tall, but even then, it seemed like it was limiting their full potential, and that they could practically burst through it if they tried. Casus possesses an incredible chemistry that’s at its best when the whole family comes together, capable of achieving absolutely anything with their combined ambition and creativity, and certainly filled us with a new sense of awe for the circus arts tonight at the Underbelly Festival.
Photos from Casus website
Performance attended 27/5/17 (Matinee)
Driftwood plays at the Underbelly Festival till 4 June. Tickets available here