BEAUTIFUL BODIES, JOY IN ACTION
In circus tradition feats of acrobatic daring and balance are hyped up by a ringmaster – drumrolls, pleas to keep totally quiet lest you distract them, portentous announcements that this is the “first ever” attempt at a triple backflip or whatever. This Australian troupe of seven, called “Gravity and Other Myths” , do have drumrolls and sound. The musician occasionally joins them, not least for a super-speed strip skipping competion which leaves one member naked. But only one word is spoken, and not a boast uttered in this extraordinary hour.
Joyful as a romping basket of puppies, the five men and two women play, hurtle, leap, swing, climb and defy probability and sense. Their routines – well paced between breathtakingly fast and elegantly, balletically slow – span clowning, dance, and rumbustious party-tricks. For instance, as if a no-hands headstand (there are dozens) was not enough, one member solves a whole Rubik’s Cube while balancing on his head; others balance head-on-head, occasionally with a girl or two attached at some impossible angle to a bare foot; at one point they issue the audience with plastic balls to hurl at them while they adopt still more crazy balancing poses, and find hands to hurl them back. A few of the front row are recruited to lie on their backs while above them – and from nervous hand to hand – one of the young women beautifully balances and stretches, doing the aerial upside-down splits on one hand on a pole. With a smile.
But it is the ensemble grace of the troupe all together which captivated me most. They treat one another as gym equipment – trapezes, swings, skipping-ropes, vaulting horses; sometimes they find immense grace, sometimes merrily pile up their confreres in odd-shaped, ludicrous heaps and dance or spin on top of them. Or they toss one another up and down, create a towering arch of humanity, swing one another by leg-and-a-wing like toddlers.
The whole hour is a delight, and it is unsurprising that they won the physical-theatre palm at the Adelaide Fringe. But for all the subsequent brilliance my favourite memory is of the opening. All seven dash around, making sudden pyramids or handstands, but each suddenly snapping the one word of the evening in turn. “Falling!” – “Falling” . As each topples rigidly backwards as if in a trust exercise, or dives from a high perch on the shoulders of two others, he or she is deftly, affectionately caught by a companion. It is curiously moving. Beautiful. You leave with a lighter step.
http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk to 6 Jul
then Edinburgh Fringe 1-15 August