Brighton FestivalCirqueFringe & FestivalsReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FESTIVAL: Backbone – Brighton Dome

Creators: Gravity and Other Myths

Reviewer: Simon Topping

Award-winning, internationally renowned, Australian circus company, Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) enter the stage looking like a very cool advert for GAP (other clothing manufacturers are available). Since their inception in 2009, Adelaide’s ten-strong performance group have rocketed to acclaim with a series of disarmingly accomplished ensemble works. Their work, Backbone, tests the limits of strength both physically and emotionally, within the individual and the collective; an exhilarating 90 minutes of spills, thrills and action, for all ages.

The first 10 minutes is essentially an entertaining warm-up for the troupe, as they layout the deceptively DIY looking staging, which consists of poles, rocks, a suit of armour and buckets of sands. As the beginning moments continue, they stretch, lift and tumble their bodies in readiness for the feats that are yet to come.

Quite soon, human towers, three people high are being formed as gasps and exclamations of amazement are shouted by the crowd; yells which increase in intensity and volume as the night goes on. There are magic moments of humour in the performance as the troupe fall about like human dominoes or dance ridiculously. The knight in armour dancing to pop beats brings a particular roar of laughter to the room as does the elastic game in the middle of the show. However, the most impressive pieces comes as the mood turns serious and the group intensify and focus in on the most death-defying skills.

The group are accompanied by two live musicians, Nicholas Martyn and Alexey Kochetkov, who artfully execute the compositions of Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory. Along with the marvellously constructed lighting system, the music is a great force to change mood and emotion throughout the piece. Martyn and Kochetkov rock out like Nigel Kennedy and Keith Moon at joyous and high octane parts of the show. At other times the music beautifully mournful and haunting, sometimes it helps create an almost overwhelmingly tense atmosphere as some of the most daring sections of the show are attempted.

Audible wows can be heard as one of the crew attempts to backflip from one two-man tower to another. A female member of the cast is suspended just by her jaw from a two-man tower and in further fantastical displays of skill and strength, a female performer is suspended many metres over the stage by a single pole supporting her back. It is scintillating to watch.

In a slower passage one of GOM, holding onto a large rock, is transferred between other players as her body twists and bends in all ways imaginable. The crowd cannot take their eyes off her every move.

As the show winds to a close the three female performers are tossed and spun with ease through the air, used like skipping ropes and thrown as if they were shot out of a canon. It truly is a high octane and mesmerising display of world-class acrobatic athleticism. At moments there is no time to catch your breath. It is a frenzy of movement; bodies in an ever changing direction of motion and transformation.

GOM show us just how much the human body can achieve with skill, practice and comradeship. Backbone is modern circus at its best; innovative, creative and surprisingly touching. A must see.

Runs until 17 May 2019 | Image: Backbone 

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