For the past three years, physical theatre troupe Gravity & Other Myths (GOM), have been performing an immersive and jaw-dropping circus performance piece titled 'Backbone'.
Seamlessly blending contemporary theatre and acrobatics, Co-Founder and performer Lachlan Binns – and the rest of the GOM collective – are no strangers to physically-demanding work of superhuman proportions.
"All of our shows are eight to ten people,” Lachlan describes. “We climb on each other, jump on each other, throw each other around, do handstands, tumbles, flips, and all that kind of stuff."
With words like 'theatre', 'acrobatics', and 'circus' in the mix, one is forgiven for assuming that what you would see at a GOM production would be a lot of smoke-and-mirror effects and sweeping storylines. Lachlan explains that he and the troupe prefer a more minimalist approach to performance.
"We like to keep things really simple. We don't complicate things with a lot of props, fancy costumes, or complicated storylines – everything is very stripped back and raw. It's all about the people that are on stage. We basically play ourselves. We're just regular people doing incredible things. We also have a lot of play and joy, and we have a really good time on stage."
GOM have had staggering success from their inception in 2009, with their most notable production, 'A Simple Space' sweeping up accolades left, right, and centre. While 'A Simple Space' focused on a more intimate and modest use of stage and ensemble, 'Backbone' turns up the spectacle with a larger cast and more death-defying tricks.
"We decided to go much bigger,” Lachlan reveals. “We dialled everything up to 11. We added extra acrobats, so there's ten acrobats on stage, there's a bigger stage, there's more technical elements in the show, a bigger lighting design, and conceptually it's much bigger than 'A Simple Space'. It's a lot more of a grand experience. . .
Image © Rob Maccoll
“When we built it, we focused on these big vignettes – these really strong images – a lot of the scenes are based on these core, key concepts that are spectacular to look at."
'Backbone' has been performing to crowds since 2017, but with no overarching narrative structure, Lachlan emphasises wanting audiences to determine their own take home values after seeing this production.
"We like audiences to come away from our shows feeling inspired. Whether that's inspired to go out and do something physical, or be inspired to just connect to the people around them more.
“We think that is the most important thing you can take away from our show – to just want to do something a little bit better; whether it be physicality, or just being a good person. We think our shows are all about connection, joy, and working together to create something incredible. We like that to rub off on people when they leave the show."
With such a large margin for audience interpretation, Lachlan centres the focus for 'Backbone' around the themes and motifs that comprise the scaffolding for the show. 'Backbone' is based around strength and all of its facets. Illuminating different kinds of emotional, spiritual, and physical strengths that an individual or a collective can exude.
"It is about strength. All of the different ways you can be strong. We used strength as the core seed to create the material. But then we broke it down and looked at it in a whole bunch of different ways,” Lachlan describes. “We are obviously a group of people so we look at individual strength vs the strength of a group of people. We look at vulnerability – we look at putting yourself in a vulnerable position, and how that can be strong.”
“We look at emotional strength and we look at strength in the most obvious way – physical strength. Acrobatics takes a lot of physical strength and we do some things that take a lot of strength. A lot of these themes aren't particularly obvious but you can see where all of the scenes and movement qualities and our ideas were seeded from."
'Backbone' plays Redland Performing Arts Centre 25 March.