‘Knot’, by Nikki & JD

Review from: Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 5th August 2019

This funny, touching, and gorgeously choreographed piece of acrobatic theatre has been around for a while, but so far I’ve never managed to be in the right place at the right time. I can safely say, however, that it was worth the wait.

Small and exquisitely formed, Knot is an autobiographical insight into performers Nikki Rummer and JD Broussé‘s relationship and the other, intersecting, relationships that inform their lives. The first incarnation of the show was in 2016, which was extended to a full-length piece last year. Devised in collaboration with award-winning choreographer Ben Duke, and with additional direction from Rosamond Martin, Knot combines hand-to-hand acrobatics and dance with spoken text, and is available both in English and French.

Because it has been around for a while, I’m already familiar with some of Knot‘s story twists. But interestingly enough, what could have been spoilers actually just allowed me to enjoy the cleverness of the writing from another angle, alongside the cleverness of the choreography. The performance and its creation bear witness to the closeness of the two acrobats, and the strength their partnership gives them, for all its frustrations and stresses. Tender sequences of soft contact, as limbs melt past each other to support weight of one, or other, or both, are complemented by tenser segments of firm, businesslike, and almost geometric connections of unspoken irritation, flinging their bodies against one another.

The woman next to me gasps, repeatedly, hands pressed to her face, as Nikki steps into JD’s hands for her feet to be launched skywards, or as Nikki – the smaller and slighter of the pair – holds JD up on her shoulders. I know they have these moves in the bag, having seen them previously in Kin and Rime, and can relax into watching their fabulous expertise instead.

We see them physically support each other through twists and turns and, by the end of the show we understand how they support each other in more personal, emotional ways too. They have each other’s backs, as well as feet, hands, arms or any other weight-bearing body part. Knot is both considered and considerate; they win us over with beauty, give us full-bodied laughs at its truths, and touch our hearts with its honesty.

Two handheld microphones, two extraordinarily skilled humans, and layers of identity that are taken off and added like the layers of pale, comforting clothes they wear. (And, if you’re also thinking of watching this at Edinburgh Fringe, some of the comfiest seats you’re likely to find in a venue!).

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