Review: Jerk

Emma Serjeants. Picture: VJzoo

5 stars
De Parel Spiegeltent


Jerk, the one-woman show performed by Emma Serjeant, co-founder of Queensland circus company Casus, is an exciting amalgam of theatre, dance, music and circus.

Serjeant uses magnificent physical and considerable dramatic skills to tell an apparently simple story in a dozen different ways, each time deploying different apparatus and techniques, and adding new layers of information and emotion.

The story she tells is straightforward enough, up to a critical moment; what happens thereafter is wide open to interpretation. I'm going to shelter behind the spoiler-alert convention (because I've spoken to people who have a completely different take from mine) and leave it at this:

Grace is a professional photographer, the best in her bureau. She's married, but casually unfaithful, self-possessed, confident, a little arrogant. Gill, a man at her office, has caught her eye, and she's thinking about "encouraging" him when she sees him watching her walking down the street. Her phone rings; it's her brother Aaron, and she doesn't want to talk to him. Distracted, she steps out into the road. There's a screech of brakes, she turns and sees a truck bearing down on her, the driver in his cab screaming . . .

Can Grace jump out of the way? Does she? Did she know the danger she was in? Did she care? Is what she now reveals about herself in the adrenaline-charged slow- motion seconds between act and consequence, or in a coma, or at death?

Don't be daunted. Serjeant has an overflowing bag of acrobat's - sometimes contortionist's - tricks at her disposal, and you're constantly amazed, captivated and entertained by how she uses them.

But her calibration of action and purpose - things exposed and things held back - never wavers. She builds an equation where movement equals energy equals emotion, and manipulates it expertly.

Jerk is precisely directed by John Britton, the principal of the British physical theatre collaboration Duende, and benefits from a powerful, jarring and often beautiful soundscape composed by Jay Radford.

I saw its first-ever performance and thought it was all but faultless - I believe a later performance suffered from some sound issues, and that would have compromised the performance considerably.

Like all new work, there are the occasional wrinkles that need ironing out and extraneous elements that could use shaving but what Jerk is now, and what it certainly will become, deserves the highest praise.

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