Run away with the circus
They’ve wowed audiences all over the world with their flips, tricks and tumbles – now Adelaide-based acrobatic group Gravity & Other Myths is gearing up for an exciting new production, Backbone, at the Adelaide Festival.
Story: Marija Filipovic.
A frenetic scene of activity – that’s certainly one way to describe a circus. And it’s certainly one way to describe Adelaide’s own troupe of awe-inspiring acrobats, Gravity & Other Myths (GOM).
But this isn’t your traditional big-top ensemble, with jugglers and trapeze; GOM has stripped circus back to a place where mesmerising human feats of strength, energy and trust shine above all else.
Sitting with three of the group – founder, general manager and cast member Triton Tunis-Mitchell; director Darcy Grant; and producer Craig Harrison – it’s apparent their infectious energy is definitely not just for show.
Indeed, according to Harrison, being genuine is a key ingredient in GOM’s success, and something that brings them together with candid and vigorous results.
‘When these guys perform, the connection between them is palpable; the audience is 100 per cent invested in the relationships on stage,’ he muses.
‘I’ve seen a lot of circus in my time, but that connection is usually manufactured. With these guys, it’s really just… real.’
With a largely South Australian cast, many of the GOM number started out at Adelaide’s school of circus, Cirkidz.
As a former student and teacher, Tunis-Mitchell agrees that this pedigree delivers a meaningful bond.
‘Back in 2008/09, I was teaching – what are now my fellow cast mates
– at Cirkidz,’ he reveals.
‘But… when you graduated, there wasn’t a clear pathway. And certainly in Adelaide, there wasn’t a performing group or even an adult training group, so… we just thought with the Adelaide Fringe as our home base, we’d put on a show.’
And so it was.
Winning a number of grants, their first show, Freefall, started touring Australia in 2009, and soon enough, the tight-knit ensemble was destined for the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest arts festival in the world.
And that’s where things really took off.
They’ve been on the road for 11 months of the year ever since, and are booked-up all the way through to September 2018.
Critics have described the company as innovative, new age and different, but what does that look like?
‘That’s simple,’ laughs Grant.
‘Lots of people talk about stripping layers of artifice and theatricality from their work… but, I don’t think people actually do.
‘GOM has done it, though. They actually genuinely pulled away all of the artifice and just made pure physical dialogue with each other, and the audience, with standing-ovation effect.
Performed on a sparse stage, with a few key props and minimal costumes, GOM’s approach is certainly low fuss. But not low spectacle.
And from China and South America, to Zimbabwe and the Czech Republic, it’s not just Australian audiences that have been wowed by the extraordinary displays of human courage, trust and strength.
‘We just won the inaugural Audience Prize at Switzerland’s Theater Spektakel – that’s a huge deal,’ nods Harrison.
‘This is substantial because it’s a high-brow theatre event, and it’s the first time circus has been invited. It’s opened up doors across Europe, for us and other circus acts.’
After more travel, workshops and one broken finger, the troupe is now home and working on their next production, which premieres at next year’s Adelaide Festival.
‘This new show, Backbone, is about strength; but really, the various perceptions of what that is, how it’s measured and where it comes from. It’s as simple and as complicated as that,’ explains Grant.
‘It’s a celebration and there’s a lot of joy and gasping and being in awe, but hopefully it also leaves you with compassion for your fellow man.
‘It’s more about people, and how we relate to each other… It should draw attention to the connections you have in your world.’
‘We’re excited to take GOM to the next level and see what ensues, and it’s cool to be able to launch that in Adelaide,’ adds Tunis-Mitchell.
And of course, the crew emphatically thank the Adelaide Festival Artistic Directors and the Confederation of Australian Festivals for their support.
‘As our champions, they’ve really moved mountains for us and we are indebted to them,’ says Grant.
As Grant suggests, ‘you’re going to the theatre to see this really amazing bunch of people, who have made incredible sacrifices to be together, do something amazing, and hopefully move you in the process.’
Sounds good to us!