Gravity and Other Myths have lit up the Playhouse stage with an incredible devised circus piece called Backbone. You would be forgiven if you thought some of the contortionists didn’t have a physical backbone, I even question whether or not all of the performers had a brain with the dangerous stunts performed in front of a packed audience. Of course, I say this in jest, as the cast pushed their bodies and capabilities to the limit in a show that can only be described as spectacular.
Upon entering the auditorium, I couldn’t help but feel a cold room, there was no music and nothing on the stage was lit, which was a complete juxtaposition of the performance that was to follow. This felt like a slight oversight compared to everything else that was so well thought out. The show starts as twelve performers in the space surrounded by all the props that were to be used during the show. As the curtain rises, they set-up and launch into an hour and fifteen minutes of unrelenting circus acts that had far more polish than your average night under the big-top.
The lighting was nothing short of stunning and was essentially a character in itself. The use of beams, floods and mirrors bouncing the light in different directions had the audience agape with wonder. When the lighting is as good and as noticeable as this, it makes it strikingly obvious when it isn’t quite right, which I felt it wasn’t in a moment when a net of rocks was suspended over the stage and the three female performers weren’t quite lit; this was however a minor issue.
The sound, played live by Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory was such a clever touch and gave the production another boost. There were times when the music was so flawless that you forgot that it was being played live as the show progressed. The performers were unbelievable, as suggested earlier. The belief in one another’s ability was one thing, but the joy you could see in their faces and bodies for the entire show was beautiful to watch. There was the occasional slip and mis-landing, thankfully these only happened on the less dangerous stunts. There were a number of humourous moments interspersed throughout that I won’t ruin here as they tend to come as a surprise and each of these were perfectly timed.
I question the need or point of the constant costume changes. I’m sure the cast and director had a reason for them but I certainly couldn’t work out why or what they added to the show. In a company that strives for being unpretentious, this was the only part that seemed to stray from that goal. The staging was brilliant, interesting and exciting at all times. The use of buckets of ‘dirt’, rocks and poles was always interesting. The patterns carved out in the ‘dirt’ were mesmerising and I particularly liked the detail of the first bucket being poured out in one straight line and at the end, a path being carved out in exactly the same spot. It was these small details that made viewing this a joy.
Backbone is a performance that needs to be seen to be believed. It will have you gasping in incredulity, laughing at the added touches of humour and shaking your head at the ridiculously talented cast. I challenge you to find twelve people that trust each other more than the performers of this show. This is not to be missed.
Backbone is running until the 22nd of October at Arts Centre Melbourne.