Review: Casus Circus a fantastic spectacle (with no substance)

Casus Circus preparing for its show “Knee Deep” at Memminger Auditorium.

Casus Circus certainly is impressive. Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, this contemporary circus company puts on a great show of physical majesty and superb beauty. Fans of dance and gymnastics will find much to love in “Knee Deep,” the work Casus Circus is presenting at this year’s Spoleto Festival.

When these performers set up a jump or a stand or a delicate walk, and even when they stumble, audience members are on the edge of their seats and holding on tight. Audible gasps were heard a lot during Friday night’s show. So was astounded applause. When the troupe nails a particularly spectacular stunt, the crowd went wild.

Each of the performers are true marvels of their craft. Jake Silvestro, Natano Fa’anana, Jesse Huygh and Kali Retallack, four of the company’s nine ensemble members, have incredible chemistry and even more substantial skill. The sheer physical strength and delicate balance required to pull off some of the more substantial stunts (like creating a tower three-people tall, standing on shoulders) is a sight to behold. They make it look easy.

The collections of tumbles, tricks, and stunts are divided into small, seamless sections. A balancing act slides into a ring hanging routine (Retallack’s cyclone is a highlight of the show) which flows into silk-strip maneuverss high above the ground, executed by Fa’anana. There’s plenty of variation throughout the show’s one-hour runtime. No wonder the show has become an international sensation in the last few years.

What’s missing is the through-line, the why of it all. There’s little-to-no story to be had. Some of the sections have a shadow of an idea or theme, but that’s not the point here. The feats are the show. I would have liked more of a story tying it all together so that the techniques were used to further a narrative. But then, who am I to argue with a satisfied packed house? If you’re looking for Cirque du Soleil-style proceedings, this is your ticket. For me, I prefer something a little deeper.

Michael Smallwood is an actor in Charleston.