This response was produced as part of the #CircusVoices scheme for developing critical practice around circus arts.
Review from: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 10th August 2018
Ethnicity: Northwest European
Background: Circus, visual arts
You and I is a show by Australian circus company Casus that presents a love relationship between two men. The story is told almost exclusively through acrobatic and aerial techniques, performed by Jesse Scott and Lachlan McAulay who are two of the company’s co-founders.
The stage set suggests a living room or other domestic setting – there is a table, some chairs, a box and a cupboard. The performers enter the stage and the show starts with a choreographed dance sequence. The way that they relate to each other on stage is so sweet and childish that I (not knowing beforehand what the show was about) though this might be an idyllic depiction of two brothers of around 5 or 6 years old. This illusion is broken when they start ballroom dancing together, as that – and the way they look at each – other evokes a romantic relationship.
The structure of the show is basically a series of acts, the linking theme being the (predominantly) blissful domestic relationship of the couple. Jesse and Lachlan are both highly skilled in their circus technique and some thought has gone into what certain moves express by themselves, and how the moves are linked together. However, the introduction of different apparatus is done without any explanation and the props are used as what they are (ie. a hula hoop is, in fact, a hula hoop), which breaks me out of their story and draws attention to the absurdity that is circus technique.
What I really appreciate about this show is that it depicts a romantic relationship between men in a way that is not machismo or eroticised. The artists show their vulnerability, they are gentle with each other and when one of them leaves the stage for a while (it is unclear why, especially as the premise seems to be that they are cooped together in the space by ceaseless rain outside) the other performs a trapeze act that expresses his sad and lonely state. The paradox between this softness and the displays of strength and power that they need for the acrobatic technique makes the message even more real for me – sure, they are strong and physically powerful, but that doesn’t mean that they have to act that out all the time.
They also play on stereotypes of gay men – in one scene there is some funky music and lighting and Jesse and Lachlan are dressing up in various costumes associated with the queer community: sparkly dresses, wigs and leather bondage gear. This dress-up is done with such a sweetness and childlike joy that it is as if they are two children playing, this underlined by the fact that all the clothes are gleefully pulled out of a box. (The only beef I have with this scene is that, like in every contemporary circus or dance show ever, the performers end up in their underwear at some point.)
The music used during the show always has lyrics, usually lyrics that relate to the mood of that particular scene. Although I can understand the coherence of this I feel as though it is red on red, almost as if the performers don’t trust their actions on stage to speak for themselves so the music needs to be there, just to make the message absolutely clear. The effect created is too obvious for my taste.
I really stand behind what they are communicating about masculine culture and I have huge respect for the hard work they’ve put into their training, but I didn’t find it very original or challenging in terms of how the circus technique was used, how the narrative was structured or how the music supported the action.
Go see it if you like: High-level circus technique, Disney films, romance, stage shows, men who aren’t afraid to show vulnerability
Leave it if you want to see: Something funny, horror shows, machismo, explicit eroticism, smooth scene transitions, hamsters
After seeing the show, we also spent time talking to the two performers & creators…