Gravity & Other Myths – Contemporary Circus:
Performing at the Southbank Centre this August are award winning Australian company Gravity & Other Myths (GOM) who formed in Adelaide in 2009. Their production A Simple Space won the 2015 Australian Dance Award for Best Physical Theatre and toured internationally. GOM is known for exploring the limits of human strength using disarmingly accomplished ensemble works. Now, BACKBONE comes to London.
These past few years I have established a real passion for contemporary circus, it’s inventive, inspiring, raw, honest and often quite witty, I have seen some extraordinary acts from all around the world.
However, GOM’s show Backbone directed by Darcy Grant has to be up there, as one of the most visceral, spectacular and breathtaking performances I have ever seen. I came away with a wonderful sense of newfound belief in humanity’s strength, passion and sheer ability.
Opening on the Southbank Centre’s huge stage in The Queen Elizabeth Hall is no mean feat; it’s a large space to fill with an audience to match.
And so it begins….the stage….a dressing room perhaps? A clothes rail, a space adorned with simple objects – buckets, large poles, rocks, a suit of armour. Two musicians – a keyboard, strings and percussion… the floor is littered with ten bodies…Slowly they come to life… they prepare.
A warm-up : music, jumping, dropping, falling, catching, creating shapes and patterns both in the space and on the ground.
The company explores their environment, moving fluidly through space creating a new language with their bodies. There is no narrative as such but what unfolds is a dynamic eloquent communication one that is charged with energy and pure physical strength.
This production moves away from traditional circus and theatre models, and forms a fusion of physical theatre; dance and acrobatics, powerful and emotional charged. The music provides a vivid and evocative accompaniment.
What really struck me was the agility and stamina of the artists, there is such an instinctive synergy and trust between them all that explores gender stereotypes, strength, risk and power, at times with a real frenetic energy but also with a tenderness, warmth and humour. I have witnessed human towers before but here they were balancing three high upon each other’s heads!
Lighting designer Geoff Cobham’s dramatic lighting effects added a distinctly futuristic conceptual feel to the piece, which created some sensational illusions and distractions.
At one point I was sitting on the edge of my seat as the male members of the company held a large sack of huge rocks above the female artist’s whilst they performed an acrobatic dance beneath it, this constructed metaphors and symbols for male/female power, risk, support, surrender, trust and control in a gender defining world.
I was genuinely moved by each and every artist’s fearless dedication, discipline and camaraderie. Backbone is a celebration of human collaboration, which creates a kind of spatial poetry, pushing limits in a journey of aesthetic discovery and the amazing power of the body.
This is a joyous and beautiful show, which deserves to be celebrated.
Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival: Gravity & Other Myths – BACKBONE
Part of Summer at Southbank Centre