Circus performance and improvisation are not normally concepts that go hand-in-hand. Somehow, Backbone manages to pair them together in a show full of gasp-worthy moments, beautiful acrobatics and laughter.
From the start of the show, Gravity & Other Myths appears to be a group of twenty-somethings, friends who are just having a laugh together. Except, in their case having a laugh involves stacking one another into three-person-tall towers and throwing themselves and each other across the stage. The level of apparent effortlessness that they showcase is incredible and the audience is drawn in immediately.
Unlike any other circus show you’ll see, they have entire sections that are improvised, including the final 5-6 minutes and a very entertaining ‘whip game’ that sees them end up with red welts across their impressive abs. They laugh at each other, and at themselves, inviting the audience to do the same. And the audience does laugh – until they flinch and gasp at the next trick, of course.
Even the staging of Backbone seems relaxed. Their clothing is casual, eschewing sequined leotards for bare feet with jeans, shirts and denim playsuits (although there is a full suit of armour at one point). Their props consist of buckets, dirt, poles and rocks, as unpolished and rough as everything else. The music is provided by two people at the edge of the stage, also dressed in jeans and casual shirts, equipped with an electric violin and electric drum set. The skill of the musicians should be commended, as they time each beat with what’s happening on stage, keeping up with the acrobat’s mischief and adding musical accents to make the bigger sequences even bigger.
While the set up and attitude of the performers seems unpolished, the acrobatic sequences and demonstrations of raw strength showcase the level of discipline present in the group. The audience continually has to remind themselves that although they make it look easy, it most certainly is not. The standing ovation they receive at the end of the show is fully deserved, as they successfully subvert anyone’s expectations of a circus act, and produce a total triumph in the process.
Backbone is on at Underbelly Bristo Square – McEwan Hall
At 17:00 until 26th August
Book tickets here
Image: Darcy Grant