'The show is about being human'

Casus’s Sarah McDougall on Driftwood - coming to GIAF 17

RENOWNED AUSTRALIAN circus troupe Casus makes its second visit to the Galway International Arts Festival with Driftwood. It previously played the festival in 2013 with international smash hit Knee Deep, which won Best Circus & Physical Theatre awards at both the Adelaide Fringe and Avignon festivals.

Originating in Brisbane, Casus was founded by Natano Fa’anana, Lachlan Macaulay, and Jesse Scott. The co-founders remain company members and close friends. Their home-town values of humanity, friendship, and connection flow throughout Casus’s shows, forming the backbone of the company’s signature style.

Casus Circus performances are rich in human connection, integrity, cultural diversity and precise choreography. Acrobats fill the stage with momentum and stillness, with strength and fragility, and overwhelm audiences with breathless emotion that often leads to a silent theatre throughout the performance– followed by a standing ovation at the end.

Driftwood is a colourful and turbulent concoction of pure joy and intimacy in which Casus reveals our innate need for human contact. The unique acrobatic shapes signature to Casus abound in a thrilling journey of explosive encounters, hidden looks, and humorous discoveries. It has been garnering rave reviews in the UK with The Stage calling it a ‘captivating circus show combining small, sensitive, encounters with high-octane feats’ and The Evening Standard finding it ‘sweet, carefree and dreamy’.

Among the cast of Driftwood is Sarah McDougall who spoke with me ahead of Casus’s visit to GIAF. “Getting to Europe is exciting for us,” she enthuses. “You can head to a few different countries in the same amount of time it would normally take us to get out of one state in Australia! A lot of people say Ireland and Australia have similar personalities so we’re going to enjoy coming over and finding that friendly vibe.”

The world of circus arts has been flourishing in Australia for some years. “It’s getting stronger and stronger,” McDougall agrees. “There are very few of us who were born into the circus world but now there are lots of little circus schools that up and coming performers are graduating from so it’s not just for families of the elite artists. It’s accessible to everyone and seen as an exciting thing to do and getting more popular."

McDougall herself came to circus from a background in sport; “I was playing volleyball at a fairly high level and, embarrassingly, I wanted to learn how to throw a backsault for when I scored a really good point!” she reveals. “So I took myself along to a tumbling course and it was really fun and I had a great time. I then realised how much it had to offer and I slowly got more and more into the circus world and left the volleyball world behind. Unfortunately I still can’t do a backsault!”

I ask her about the process of creating a circus show; “There are so many ways to make it,” she replies. “It can come from one idea like with the title Driftwood and that kind of feeling; that influences the movement within the show. Ideas can come from the music or things you’ve tried and learned. Sometimes it can be an apparatus and you think what you can do on it. A lot of it comes from just playing which is why circus is a great job; it’s about moving together and finding stuff in rehearsal that works.

"I joined the cast for Driftwood and rehearsed in Brisbane then we did a month-long season in London and now we’re heading to France and Galway. We found with learning the show that the other guys had created there were certain tricks and movement qualities that didn’t exactly work for us so although the show is the same it’s a little bit different between the two casts because the routines are adapted for each performer. No two bodies are the same so they are about the movement skills and personality of each performer.”

McDougall describes how Casus’s founding values inform Driftwood. “Natano, Lachlan and Jesse, put their own core beliefs into Casus, values like kindness and strength and a sense of community. That’s the really nice thing about being part of Casus, it is a welcoming company for the audience and people associated with them and the performers. It really shines through that those values are the foundation of the company and they feed into Driftwood strongly.

"The show is basically about being human; the idea behind it is that the performers onstage are like pieces of driftwood, they come together, bump apart just like pieces of driftwood do, they meet up further downstream, coming together and moving apart like life in general. There’s no pretence or characters, just us being performers onstage being human, so if something funny happens you are going to laugh, if something scary happens you react to that. It is a really nice way to perform because it a different show every night, depending on the audience and how things are feeling.”

For tickets see www.giaf.ie or call into the Festival Box Office, Forster Street. #GIAF17



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