In their most physically demanding show to date, the Adelaide-based circus collective use the concept of strength as stimulus for a series of awe-inspiring scenes.
Back on our shores after a tour overseas, Lachlan Binns, a founding member of Gravity And Other Myths (GOM), says strength is “pretty implicit in everything we do.” The motivation to use it as the launchpad for ‘Backbone’ was to “try and find something [the ensemble] could engage with and represent in an authentic way.”
In addition to the usual physical exercises GOM members go through when developing a new show, the group did extensive research and reading to generate ideas for scenes about strength, aiming to discover varied ways of measuring and showing it.
Members brought “things like stories of carers of people with disabilities, or people who had gone through diseases or illnesses, or... single parents raising big families ” Lachlan says.
Transitioning elements of the stories they gathered through to physical activities allowed the ensemble to discover new physical languages and modes of movement that give the scenes in ‘Backbone’ a emotive quality.
Although the performance doesn’t have any explicit narrative structure, thematic throughlines and “grand” acrobatic imagery link the scenes together. “Some absolutely beautiful lighting design kind of cuts through and creates all these shapes and lines, along with all the acrobatics,” Lachlan says.
“There’s a real sense of flow, it’s a ... Driving force from the start of the show through to the end – we always find that people are a little bit exhausted by us by the time they get to the end of the show.”
The GOM ensemble, too, appears physically exhausted, after 80 minutes of tests in agility, balance, flexibility and timing. The group are still touring their previous show ‘A Simple Space’, and returning to 'Backbone' after a break can be a challenge. “Sometimes it’s a bit scary… Staring down the barrel of trying some of these big, scary, dangerous tricks again,” Lachlan admits.
But the upper limits of their abilities are where members are most excited, and most itchy to work for more demanding feats.
“We weren’t doing this stuff seven years ago when we started working together; we started small, and it’s kind of in our nature to always push ourselves to the next level,” Lachlan says.
“Over the years it’s built higher and higher and higher. The level we’re at now, it kind of feels like home, and we’re already thinking about what’s next – how can we push it a bit higher or how can we push it a bit further? Which can be exciting and scary, and a lot of fun.”
Touring in Europe was eye-opening for GOM, as circus is perceived differently to how it’s seen in Australia. “It’s a little less traditional touring tents, and a little more… Alongside things like theatre and dance, so it’s really nice to perform over there,” Lachlan says.
Returning to their busy domestic touring schedule, the group showcased ‘Backbone’ at the 2018 Sydney Festival and enjoyed widespread critical praise, unsurprising after the trio of Helpmann Award nominations the show received at the 2017 Adelaide Festival.
Along with gravity, it’s clear that the ensemble is leaving big tops and touring tents in the dust.