THEATRE REVIEW: Knot, Nikki & JD, South Holland Centre, Spalding
The audible gasps from the audience inside Spalding's South Holland Centre said everything you needed to know about Knot.
A breath-taking, deft-defying, heart-stopping marriage of acrobatic excellence and dance expressiveness by self-defined "circus artists" Nikki and JD was worth the wait.
In this case, the wait went on for more than a year after "The Beast from the East" put paid to the pair's original plan to suspend the belief of their audience on March 1, 2018.
Depicting the ins and outs, ups and downs, fall-in-love, fall-out-of-love complexities of a relationship between two lovers, Nikki Runner and Jean-Daniel Broussé set out to answer one question about what the late Michael Jackson called (or rather sang) "human nature".
How can we be honest with ourselves without hurting those we love?
The real-life experience of Nikki and JD, her two-and-a-half years without a relationship to speak of and his "coming out" to his dad as gay, were played out with a total absence of irony, duplicity or banality.
One of JD's lines during the 55-minute show was "You know when you're with someone and you see things that you never saw before and that start to get on your nerves."
Whether by accident or by design, the answer came later on on during the show: "It's what the people want, it's romance".
Mere words fail to do justice to the absolute dexterity, intensity and sensitivity of the two performers who relied on a form of hand-to-hand combat, without the hostility, to tell their tale about "the struggles of commitment".
After the performance, the audience had 15 minutes to question Nikki and JD about their performing partnership and journeys into circus and dance theatre.
Nikki, an ex-gymnast and charity worker from Seattle, USA, said: "We started the show in 2016 and it's developed in phases, from 20 minutes and 30 minutes to the point when we realised there was more to say.
"So we created a longer show, made up of little vignettes that define who we are.
"One of the inspirations for the show is our frustrations with audience expectations of seeing a man and a woman moving around on stage.
"It's harder for them to imagine that it's anything more than a romance and it does feel like a real relationship between us, in some ways, because we spend so much time together and we have to train almost every single day."
Knot gave JD a chance to reveal how he had turned his back on the family bakery, passed down through at least three generations, to partner Nikki on stage.
JD said: "The idea of the show came to us in a cabaret when the directors wanted the boy and girl to 'get in and kiss' at the climax of the show.
"But when we got to the end of the show, ready for the kiss, I moved away.
"What was key to us in Knot was the honesty, to draw on stories that are true so there's integrity to them, not just saying something for the sake of it.
"The honesty comes from a place where you think, 'Maybe it's more interesting to be complex'.
"We had a lot of anxiety about Knot so, as circus artists, we went on a bit of a journey with it because of the world we've come from.
"It does feel like a weird marriage and, in some ways, ours is a very intense relationship - just not a sexual one."