Surely once you've seen one rope trick you've seen them all? Not so; the Dust Palace keep their impressive acrobatics fresh with entertaining storytelling.

While Dust Palace virgins will gape at their spinning arabesques in this olde-worlde-shabby-attic cabaret show; devotees will enjoy the small yarns they're spinning at the same time. It's natural for a sailor to be climbing a rope (a polished Edward Clendon) while the silks are amusingly incongruous when wrapped around a bawdy granny (chameleon director Eve Gordon).

While cabaret tables are impossible in the Herald Theatre - and some acts feel squashed on the small stage - the steeply raked seats allow the audience the rare opportunity to be at eye level with aerial performers a storey or two off the ground.

After a slow prologue, we see a grab-bag of eight surprise vignettes - the pole, net, tumbling and hoop are seasoned with vaudeville slapstick, drama, dance, song and a small pinch of nudity. Tempo and mood are nicely varied for those of us with short attention spans, and the comedic sketches work particularly well.


In a slight nod to Christmas, toys come to life Nutcracker-style. We see chisel-jawed Russian soldiers and a rag doll with a secret (the racial politics sail rather close to the wind). A chanteuse with muddy feet - feet of clay? - is the calm within the whirlwind. Rochelle Mangan's hoop work is beautifully assured, and Cathy Pope's costumes are clever takes on the traditional.

The performers have varying degrees of experience, but the Dust Palace has developed the depth of talent required to allow one or two regulars to go missing - in this case, across the square in Chicago.

As explained in a cheerfully misspelled poster, volunteer audience members decide the order of items during the show by knocking on doors in SarahJane Blake's set. This is a remarkable and well-executed feat of logistics; performers, technicians and stagehands have mere seconds to react. Lots of fun, great visuals and broad humour.

What: Knock Knock
Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, to December 21