A Simple Space – Underbelly Festival: Southbank, London

Reviewer: Sophia Moss

When was the last time you stood on someone’s head? Or balanced upside down with one arm on a person’s shoulders? The performers in Gravity and Other Myths, the award-winning Australian circus company, do all this and much, much more during their hour-long performance of A Simple Space.

A Simple Space is performed on a small, black stage area with four light stands at each corner. To the back of the stage lie boxes filled with balls and balloons. The performers wear shorts and pale pinks, reds and oranges with bare feet.  The performance area looks more like a dress rehearsal space than a stage, which is what the show is all about. There are few frills, props or elaborate designs: the show is all about the human bodies on stage and what they are capable of.

The music is a mixture of sound effects (such as squelching water) which mix into live drum and piano. Alex Flood, the musician, performs an impressive musical number using just his hands and body.

Annalise Moore performs amazing balancing and jumping routines: one moment she is leaping onto her fellow performer’s stomachs as they lie flat on the ground (they didn’t appear hurt), the next she is balancing upside down on one arm from a three-person tower or walking on people’s heads. She is one of the strongest performers in the show and radiates a cheeky confidence which makes her instantly likeable, but there are no weak links in the company. Lisa Goldsworthy takes on some of the lifts and strength moves which are traditionally limited to men and, though she buckles under the weight of the others at times, she does a good job.

Audience engagement is strong throughout whether they’re picking us up, throwing balls at us or getting us to clap, click and rub our stomachs in the name of music, they constantly make us feel included while their friendly attitude reduces the fear of being called up. The ensemble appears completely at home with each other, both with their perfect timing and co-ordination but also with their little smiles and nods of encouragement for each other.

The gravity-defying feats that the acrobats perform are not always completely flawless: legs sometimes shake, their faces show concern for each other’s safety at times and, during a trio balancing act with Ashleigh Pearce, Lisa Goldsworthy and Benton Adam-Walker, there were moments when they looked shaky and scared.

This doesn’t take away from the magic of the show, however, because it is very much about real people doing extraordinary things. The performer’s sweat (and wipe their feet and armpits on towels), their legs sometimes shake as they hold positions and they may doubt themselves at times because they are human, but they are able to do things with their bodies that most of us can’t even imagine.

Runs until 5 May 2019 | Image: Andy Phillipson

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