Sunday, 8 October 2017

Backbone - Melbourne Festival review

Just when you think you've seen all that is possible in circus, along comes Backbone (by Adelaide company Gravity and Other Myths) that makes you think again. Presented as part of the Melbourne Festival, this show examines the need of strength and support from those around us, and a need to be able to come together as a unified front if we are to ever succeed in life wonderfully represented through some mind-boggling acrobatics.

There's a strong ritualistic aesthetic in Backbone as the performers pour buckets of sand early in the show onto the stage in varying patterns. They begin to move left to right across the floor in a repetitive rite of passage while executing captivating twists, flips, balances, jumps and turns that I've never witnessed before. These bodies are doing things that should be physically impossible and it's baffling as to how they keep their energy and momentum going for the entire 75 minutes. 

The strength, teamwork, flexibility and trust that lies within this troupe (Martin Schreiber, Lachlan Binns, Jascha Boyce, Jacob Randell, Lewie West, Lewis Rankin, Joanne Curry, Mieke Lizotte, Lachlan Harper, Jackson Manson) is clearly evident, as bodies are thrown from one side of the stage and caught on the other and three person human towers are constructed. Boyce's hypnotic suit and rock act has her fixing her sight out towards the audience, remaining expressionless throughout her act so even as she stands precariously on the shoulders of one performer and being passed to another, her eyes stay locked and she remains calm, knowing everything will go according to plan.

Director Darcy Grant ensures an energised pace for the show while providing the opportunity for the audience to savour every second of what is transpiring on stage - not only through the performers but also with the production's technical design too. Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory's original score heightens the tension and drama allowing the audience to become fully enveloped by what they are seeing. Each act is perfectly matched by music that has these musicians seamlessly swapping from one instrument to another.

The laser and lighting design by Geoff Cobham is impeccable as his rig beams across the stage and shine down from above. The lighting refract off mirrors hanging from the ceiling creating mesmerising patterns and stunning images on stage, with some performers veiled in shadows while others are brightly lit under the hues of the various colours.

Gravity and Other Myths return to Melbourne in January 2018 with another show, A Simple Space, which - after having seen Backbone - I will not be missing. Not only has this circus company delivered my favourite circus show of the year with Backbone, but quite possibly one of my favourite circus shows ever.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. 
Season: Until 8 October | Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2pm
Tickets: $30 - $59 
Bookings: Melbourne Festival

*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 8 October 2017.

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