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Contemporary Circus – Gravity & Other Myths at Underbelly
A Simple Space is the wonderful new show from Australian contemporary circus company Gravity & Other Myths (GOM), who won the 2015 Australian Dance Award for Best Physical Theatre. GOM explores the limits of human strength and daring through charming, disarming and deceptively accomplished ensemble works. I saw their last show ‘Backbone’ at the Royal Festival Hall and was quite blown away by their fearless passion, extraordinary skill, and discipline – so I was very excited to hear that the company were returning to the Underbelly on London’s Southbank to open this year’s festival.
Underbelly is held in two pop-up tents, at a fantastic location just a stone’s throw from the River Thames. Here you can enjoy a true carnival atmosphere – and an array of delicious international street food and drinks from the outdoor bars.
Step Right Up Folks, Come Inside!
A ‘simple space’ it is, with a small, intimate stage area stripped bare, a few lights and a minimum of props – and the audience up-close and very personal.
Take these performers, and let them play! In understated, earthy-coloured attire, four men and three women, each of distinctly different physique – and equal shares of awesome strength and courage – deliver a breathtaking, jaw-dropping hour of acrobatics.
Bodies fly apparently effortlessly through the air; they roll jump and fall with seamless agility and vigour which is quite intoxicating – although sitting in the front row was at times deeply unnerving! At first, I was genuinely concerned one of them might come crashing onto my lap!
These guys really strip away all the glitz to present an intimate, very human show; warts, sweat and all. Much of the thrill comes with the enormous potential for errors – many of which could result in serious injury! But it’s alright, folks, you can breathe again…both the performers and audience are in safe hands – and I mean that quite literally. Each new physical feat is performed with lusty good-humour – not to mention incredible bravery, precision, and really extraordinary levels of trust.
Games of ‘last-one-standing’ created tension and friendly competition between the company, kicking off with a highly entertaining skip-rope-strip dare. There were ‘who-can-hold-their-breath longest’ challenges and group handstands during which the audience was invited to throw balls and knock them down. There were very many Herculean feats of strength – and much hilarity as two of the female performers (Annalise Moore and Lisa Goldsworthy) invited large men from the audience onto stage where they were cradled like big babies…to the jazzy sounds of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’…last woman holding wins…you have been warned!
Musical accompaniment is provided throughout by the very talented Alex Flood, whose edgy electronic sounds are punctuated with a human-beatbox-act in which, with a little participation from the audience, he drums, slaps, taps and pops hypnotic rhythms from his entire body. Amazing!
Precarious human towers grow higher by the moment, standing not only on shoulders but also upon one another’s heads: playful childhood games of leapfrog take a more intrepid turn as bodies are used as human trampolines…
The most astonishing part of the show though is undoubtedly its climax when Lisa and Annalise are tossed – with terrifying speed – like rag dolls between the others.
The true joy of this lively and witty production is definitely the wonderful esprit-de-corps amongst the artists. It makes for a wonderfully accessible fun night out which really will leave you feeling both breathless and elevated.
At Underbelly Festival, South Bank, until 5th May 2019
6 April – 30 September