The circus, but not as you know it! Gravity & Other Myths truly live up to their name; following up on their hit show A Simple Space, they bring Backbone to the Southbank Centre. Sexy and clever, this is an acrobatics/physical theatre/artistic mash-up that redefines how we view our bodies and their limitations. Blown away doesn’t even cover the depth of feeling this quiet gem of a show will prompt in you as it smoulders deep into your heart!
Perfect? Well obviously not, but pretty darn close. Backbone balances expertly between the circus tropes we have grown to love and the aesthetic beauty of a clever modern dance piece, but does it teeter there too long? My only negative feedback would be that for a postmodern non-narrative show, it is a tad long, and although what’s going on stage is still phenomenal, you find your attention slipping at points. A small attention span does not a show ruin, but making it just a little snapper would be a great improvement.
And now for the rest, and what a rest! The casualness of the performers is a pleasure to behold. This is not your classic grunting acrobat swirly around to Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’; this is a low-key but somehow far more impressive, subtle experience. I haven’t seen the circus depicted in theatre before in this way and that is very exciting. It is less ‘roll up, roll up’ and more vegan coffee and a beanie hat. From the outset, Backbone uses a wonderfully natural style of choreography, and a humour that is infectious. With costume changes constantly happening throughout, conversations and playful interactions blossoming between the actors, we get an insight into something truly special. There is the zero glitz and glam of the Cirque De Solei variety, but there is a charm and skill that screams louder. The grace and technical skill of the performers are, as always, unbelievable, but the way everything strings together is deliciously unique.
The elements that blend so superbly within the show are as follows. The aforementioned movement style, blending with a gorgeous and dramatic use of lights and large mirrors suspended around the stage, add to this a musical score that jumps between Bonobo’s beats and Debussy’s dream-like sequences. Topped off with genuine joy by the performers and we arrive at Backbone! It is a show so far from your local carny that it’s laughable. This is where theatre and circus blend into an artistic expression, both beautiful and fun. While managing to hit the circus charms (death dying stunts, beautiful topless acrobats etc.) Backbone also creates a sense of atmosphere quite apart from the normal circus shows! Tossed between completely different worlds effortlessly, we are shocked, amused, worried and captivated by the show and come out with a fresh idea of how humans can/do use their bodies to created emotions in others. Backbone manages to have all the impact of a physical theatre piece while combing the incredible skill of an acrobatic show and for this I commend them.
Gravity & Other Myths are bringing something much needed and different to the circus/theatre market. This is an absolute must-see show so you, like me, can come out with a massive smile on your face and your head filled fit to burst. And surely, that’s what good theatre is all about? Hold onto your backbone, you’re in for the ride of your life!
Backbone is playing at The Southbank Centre until 19 August. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Carnival Cinema