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BWW Review: ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2017: BACKBONE at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

Reviewed by Fiona Talbot-Leigh, Saturday 18th March 2017

This world premiere performance of Backbone is the latest offering from Adelaide based Gravity and Other Myths, a multi-award winning and well-respected Australian acrobatics ensemble that originally grew out of Cirkidz. The company creates engaging works of acrobatic art for touring, festivals, and corporate clients. Formed in 2009 in Adelaide, South Australia, the ensemble creates and directs their own work with an emphasis on an honest approach to performance, moving away from traditional circus and theatre models towards a fusion of acrobatic physical theatre. The company continues to grow and evolve, pushing their physical and creative boundaries, striving for unique performance opportunities and meaningful community engagement.

This amazing, no-frills, DIY circus company's brand new work, Backbone, literally tosses around the perception of what strength is, where it comes from, and how it is measured. This frenetic celebration of human interconnectedness will test the limits of strength: physical, emotional, individual, and collective.

The ten-strong cast and two musicians are mesmerising. The show opens to much scattered activity as we are let in behind the scenes, so to speak, as the cast sets the stage. Things then begin to happen in quite a subtle way but, in no time at all, the audience were exposed to the skills of this talented troupe and, within minutes, it became apparent that this would be no ordinary show.

The incredible skill of this ensemble is exceptional. Their phenomenal strength and agility really has to be seen to be believed. Their youthful energy just shines through each individual performance and as a group, you can tell that they know each other very well as they melded into each other beautifully and the level of trust is indomitably high as it is spellbinding to watch.

This show is seamlessly choreographed and the original score by composers/musicians, Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory, is the perfect backdrop to these wonderful performers as they take us through their sequences with versatility and honed concentration. They are a well-oiled machine and there were moments where I felt spoilt for choice of where to look on the stage. Each individual is of such a high calibre that, at times, it appeared they were something other than human as they literally flew around the stage and, for a time, were trapeze artists, minus the trapeze. Even when they are standing still they are emanating pure energy and excellence.

All of this, plus a good dose of humour, wonderful lighting techniques, and just the right amount of built up tension, makes this unique show a must see.

Director, DarCy Grant, intended for Backbone to be a show that anyone, from any place, at any age, can access, an unpretentious, physically virtuosic, meaningful piece of circus. This was definitely achieved and appealed to the audience, who ranged in age from young children to the elderly.

The experience of this show lingers with you long after you leave the theatre and I can see how Gravity and Other Myths are in demand over in Europe and America because, simply put, this production of Backbone is world class.

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