“Jaw-dropping” is a descriptor that gets thrown around a lot in entertainment criticism, but in the case of Casting Off, its use couldn’t be more warranted.
Spectators watch the show unfold before them with mouths agape. There are gasps, and “oh my Gods”, and spontaneous rounds of applause from the audience. Casting Off is a multi-faceted gem of a spectacle.
Billed as an intergenerational circus show, Casting Off is part physical theatre, part uplifting comedy. The trio of Australian performers do handstands atop one another’s shoulders while reciting to-do lists. They twist and coil and contort their bodies while singing beloved nursery rhymes.
While the onstage conversations are often casual, the movements are anything but. Sure, the women make the flips and the tumbles look effortless, but you just know that there’s a lot of training involved. The stunts are spectacular to behold, but they carry a distinct don’t-try-this-at-home vibe.
Casting Off excels at subverting expectations. It seizes what you think will happen and – excuse the pun – flips it all upside down. Onstage props include some unsuspecting wooden chairs and a table (complete with crocheted tablecloth).
You’d be forgiven for thinking that standard household furniture couldn’t possibly be involved in endlessly cool acrobatic stunts… but then you’d also be wrong.
Amidst the impossible feats of balance and strength, there are moments of narrative tenderness. The performers tell brilliant stories of resilience, and they dole out some great life advice. The show feels decidedly non-linear, and some of the spoken elements are so bizarre that it’s tricky to understand how it all fits together, but this is of little consequence.
Casting Off has just about everything you could hope for. It is laugh-out-loud funny. It is motivational. It is intelligent. And, with mind-blowing trapeze stunts, it is testament to what the human body can do.
Near the end of the show, this line is repeated: “handstands make me happy”. Judging by the faces in the crowd – the open mouths and the sparkling eyes – handstands really do have the power to make people happy.
Casting Off, Assembly George Square Gardens, 8-26 Aug (not 13, 20), 5.15pm