Review: Chasing Smoke, Brisbane Powerhouse

Sally Peters

This CASUS production debunks past attitudes and the horrid truths of colonial history, an empowering journey for both the audience the individual performers.
Review: Chasing Smoke, Brisbane Powerhouse

Chasing Smoke. Photo by Rob Blackburn.

Chasing Smoke housed at the Visy Theatre Powerhouse in Brisbane is a sparkling, dynamic, funny and insightful circus sensation. The CASUS circus ensemble, the only Indigenous circus group in Australia, delivered powerful entertainment with high energy. Encompassing the importance of what it means to be Aboriginal as contemporaries with talent and fierce performances.

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Originally produced by Circus Oz, via their BLAKflip program, the Casus (Driftwood, Knee Deep) production team has brought the piece through with all its glory. The work encapsulates world views from history and events as well as personal journeys presented in various forms describing the identities of cultural, social and spiritual importance.

Bursting with infectious humour, Chasing Smoke's comedic aspect had the audience in stitches. Spectators were in absolute hysterics at times with fast costume changes along with sketches which combined dance, tricks and musical musings. The fast flashy genius of one skit was brilliantly done switching from Kermit to Rolf Harris, Aretha Franklin and more. I especially enjoyed the wig depicting Cyndi Lauper! Absolutely hilarious.

Performers include Lara Croydon, Ally  Humphries, Harley Mann, Jack Sheppard, Dylan Singh, Pearl Tia Thompson. By unveiling their identities and clever characterisations, this CASUS production debunked past attitudes and the horrid truths of colonial history, an empowering journey for both the audience the individual performers. 

Chasing Smoke. Photo by Rob Blackburn.

Each member showcased their individual life stories as well with solo performances. I couldn’t help feeling privileged for the sharing of such intimate personal insights into their worlds. This work bridged any gaps, culturally, spiritually and socially as these performers laid bare their souls. Not forgetting the wicked sense of humour enacted throughout most of the show, injecting a sense of resilience and strength that can only be respected.  Other highlights included the duel sequence by two women whose joy and eye contact expressed the elation of connection through dance, acrobatics and floor work. When the women and men had a play off, doing tricks and challenging each other, the ending with taunting gestures to each group the antics were thoroughly entertaining. The intermittent characters donning a black box cleaning up the set was a delightful symbolic play in between acts, inciting further laughs for the audience. Sensitive movement and strength from the various male performances held intimate and deep connection to the audience. Also the memorable Emu story with all cast was spellbinding. Human pyramids and hoop acts left people gasping at the prowess displayed within the work.

I not only liked this work, I loved it. So poignant for the now. Pure entertainment with depth.

This compact performance lasting an hour showcased an incredible abundance of acts, acrobatic floor work, intimate storytelling, comedy and more. Creative nutrition for the soul.

A definite must see. I highly recommend you catch Chasing Smoke.

5 stars ★★★★★
Chasing Smoke
Casus Circus and Cluster Arts
Director - Natano Fa’anana
Co – Director - Jesse Scott
Production Manager - Mik Lavage
Producers - Cluster Art

24 October -3 November 2018
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Sally Peters is a freelance writer currently residing in Brisbane.