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Brighton Festival 2013

Knee Deep


Genre: Circus

Venue: Theatre Royal


Low Down

"Four performers explore the boundaries of strength and tenderness. Bodies are pushed and pulled, weighed and tested, probing the limits of both physicality and feeling. As unlikely bonds are forged and space is transcended by thrilling physical feats, we are invited to re- imagine notions of our limitations."


Four performers demonstrate extraordinary skills and rapport, skilled interplay and individual flair and charisma in a show that takes physical skills on stage to a new level. It isn’t in the number of flips or the "tricks" that we find excellence here – it is in the creative design, the dramatic tension, the tenderness and the tension that this music-backdropped performance finds it convergent power and emergent beauty and lasting impact.

Knee Deep keeps promising a through line, a narrative and its there at the start and peppered throughout but, in parts, we seem to be offered standalone – admittedly breathtaking acts of acrobatics, aerial and physical prowess.

There are moments of beauty, physical impossibility and plenty of playful humour and interpersonal dynamics.There is poetry of connect and disconnect, aspiration and togetherness – a rainbow of emotions rises before us, and the audience were often spellbound. The courage of stillness, of slowness, and then the leap into the sudden, all created texture and personality to this performance.
Breathtaking means to take the breath away. Well, there were times during this performance where exactly that happened – breath stilled in the audience and a few collective sharp intakes of breath, held, captured by the unfolding physical spectacle.
Outstanding elements in this production are: the blend of dance, circus, music and even drama; the creative core in the design and conception realised on the ability of the group of four to become a many legged and multiple armed single beast through the treating of limbs and bones as if they were simply steps, bridges and mountain ledges. A lot of the spectacle arises, not out of circus gimmickry and tricks but largely out of seemingly impossible movement, throw and catch, body percussion and build up in almost reptilian ways to sudden physical triumph.
Aerial, trapeze, acrobatics, live projection and some sometimes beautifully woven music, at other times tracks that felt too unhinged from the live action. The sheer variety is a big strength but its at its best when it all flows, one episode into the next.  It works less well when things – good as they are – stick out as "acts", pop-outs from the narrative flow. This happened with the hoop work which, though impressive, interrupted the flow.
A standing ovation at the end. Well deserved for s show that needs a better through-narrative to augment the astounding physical set pieces. Just about the best there is. Go see it.


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