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performance review: a simple space

Image: Steve Ullathorne

Image: Steve Ullathorne

Harking from Adelaide, Gravity and Other Myths is a multi-award winning ensemble of acrobats who are currently partnering with Darebin Art’s Speakeasy to present their performance piece, A Simple Space, at Northcote Town Hall, Melbourne. Gravity and Other Myths are neither big top clowns nor death defying stuntmen, but a wonderfully unified and organic group of performers with comedic flair and an expert way of blending rough and tumble acrobatics with beautiful lucidity and grace.

The performers walk onto the stage and almost immediately begin an elimination game of “strip skipping” until the last man standing removes his final piece of clothing (cue audience whistles). A little gratuitous male nudity never goes astray. The group then spends the next 45 minutes oscillating between carefully curated chaos (bodies flying across the small stage and sight gags abounding) and jaw dropping pieces of acrobatic choreography. Props and stage are minimal and the show is all about the body used as both a tool and as poetry. Heads are balanced on, torsos are offered as jumping platforms and bodies are sent spiralling through space.

A 50 minute acrobat performance could easily fall into a slump of repetition but the group keeps the show interesting from beginning to end and the music plays no small part in this. It is a perfect accompaniment, never overpowering or distracting and sound effects during certain pieces just blend perfectly; an oceanic throb and the sound of water droplets create earthy, serene performances. Silence is also effectively used; it is nail biting to hear a performer’s heavy breathing echo through the hall. You can almost hear the subtle shaking of their limbs.

Gravity and Other Myths encourages audience participation, and not in the gut wrenching way that unfortunately shy front row audience members inevitably feel when asked “Would anybody like to volunteer?”  People are willingly dragged from their chairs to lie on the ground as a female performer suspends herself in the air above them. Coloured plastic balls are then handed out and thrown (most zealously by two seven year old boys in the front row) at the acrobat as she attempts to remain balanced on her hands. This is circus in the 21st Century.

Northcote Town Hall accommodates the group perfectly. The seating wraps around the small space they perform in and the lighting is sparse but cleverly utilised; it is a blinding spotlight one moment, the next a soft glow that throws the performers shadows on the walls like nimble, elongated ghosts. “Intimate” seems such a hackneyed word to use but it is hard not to feel a sense of affinity when the group performs so honestly and are close enough to make the audience gasp; such as when a performer is flung with controlled abandon under the noses of the punters in the front row.

The show is about to end and a performer balances on a perpendicular pole, feet in the air and clicking a Rubix cube in his hands. I could make this into some sort of apt metaphor about the individual talents of the group coming together harmoniously, but I’m just impressed that this guy completed a Rubix cube in thirty seconds while standing on his goddamn head.

A Simple Space is showing at the Northcote Town Hall until Saturday March 22. Tickets are $30 full/$20 concession and can be bought here.


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