This back-to-basics Aussie circus smash makes a great headliner for the Underbelly Festival
Circus is tricky to get right, and not just on a practical, technical level. Too many shows try to foist a faulty concept on top of what is essentially just some very talented athletes doing some very difficult things.
It’s a relief, then, that Australian circus company (all circus companies seem to be Australian – it’s like a national sport over there) Gravity And Other Myths’ show ‘A Simple Space’ keeps things, well, simple. Originally debuting in 2013, and now arriving at Underbelly Festival on the South Bank with a new cast, it involves just seven performers – four guys, three girls – on a small square stage, doing impressive things with their impressive bodies.
They cram a lot into an hour, and there’s a real sense that they are pushing themselves to the limit, that things might go wrong – and they do, if only occasionally. Ashleigh Pearce does the splits on high, balancing on the heads of two fellow performers, themselves balanced on the shoulders of two more. André Augustus solves a Rubik’s Cube while doing a headstand. Musician Alex Flood, who supplies a fidgety electronic score live, also gets his bare-chested moment in the spotlight, drumming insanely fast rhythms with clicks, claps and chest-slaps.
They perform with an immense sense of competitive fun as well. There’s a bit when they all do headstands and challenge the audience to knock them over by chucking plastic balls at them. There’s a bit when Annalise Moore and Lisa Goldsworthy choose two male audience members from the crowd, and see who can hold them aloft the longest. There’s even a bit of strip-skipping – trip over the rope and lose an item of clothing.
The show’s coup de grâce comes at the end, though, when Pearce and Moore are tossed about like rag dolls by the other five cast members in a genuinely jaw-dropping display of synchronicity and strength. Which, if you ask me, is just what circus should be.