Gravity and Other Myths – A Simple Space – Review
Udderbelly Festival, Southbank, London
Gravity and Other Myths is an eight-piece Australian acrobatics ensemble. Their first show, Freefall toured Australia in 2009 and received huge amounts of praise and several awards. Their second show, A Simple Space, premiered in Australia in 2013 and is now part way through an international tour which included the Udderbelly festival in London.
A Simple Space is aptly named; the small stage contains nothing except the seven performers, their musical maestro, Elliot Zoerner, to one side and lights at each corner. The audience surrounds the stage on three sides and is about as close and intimate as it’s possible to be.
The show starts with members of the troupe crying “falling” before toppling over only to be caught by the other members of the ensemble. This sets the informal, fun, and seemingly improvised tone of the show.
One of the attractions of this small and simple space is how close you get to the performers. You can see the sweat dripping from their faces, hear their heavy breathing and see the smiles on their faces as they are having almost as much fun as the audience.
Each time an act finishes the performers line up at the back of the stage and look at each other as though to say, “who’s next?” For me, the most impressive act in the show was performed by Rhiannon Cave-Walker. Her hand balancing performed on canes was a formidable display of strength, technique, flexibility and, of course, balance. Rhiannon’s part of the show was the most impressive hand balancing I’ve seen live.
The music was also fantastic. The whole modern and energetic soundtrack was created live (well, ok there was a laptop etc involved) by a single musician, Elliot. Elliot is certainly part of the ensemble and not just someone hidden on the fringe. He has his own act in the show where he demonstrates some fast-paced, high energy percussion using just his body. His chest is bright red by the end from all the slapping and thumping performed on it.
Elliot’s non-musical services are also required in the game of strip skipping that is played between three of the cast. The performers skip as fast as they can until someone’s rope gets caught. The offending performer then has to remove an item of clothing. I had thought this piece had been engineered to allow Elliot to win, putting the acrobats to shame. After chatting to Elliot post show it was revealed that the competition is real and Elliot just so happened to have a good night. The loser of this game is stripped naked. Almost as impressive as the skipping is how the loser manages to keep his bits and bobs from scarring the children (and adults) in the audience while his undies are removed and then returned to him.
The most visually impressive piece of the show consists of Jascha Boyce being flung around by her hands and feet by the other members of the cast like a human skipping rope. She’s passed and thrown between the different performers as Jascha flips and twists through the air.
Silliness mixed with awe-inspiring skill and strength is a theme of the show. From the back flip competition to the balloon modelling, from solving a Rubik’s cube while head-standing to the audience throwing balls at the hand-standing performers, A Simple Space will entertain and wow you whether you’re five, 50 or 100 years old.
Gravity and Other Myths’ run at the Udderbelly festival has now finished but Gravity and Other Myths will be back in the UK for the Edinburgh Fringe between 1st and 25th August 2014. For more information check out their website.