Contemporary circus company, Gravity & Other Myths make their Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut at Underbelly’sMcEwan Hall with a heart-thumping production that seeks to strip out some classic tropes of the genre. Where some circus will try to show you just how precise and well-trained they are, Backbone wants to engage you on a deeper, and at times,more introspective level.
The opening sequence reads as almost completely unplanned; what you see are the company revelling in the joy of play and the power of following impulse as a way to enter the space and bring the audience into the piece. This theme continues throughout, punctuating the incredible displays of dexterity and strength with light-hearted humour, sensitivity andoccasional tomfoolery.
Without doubt this is an incredibly talented and physically explosive company. Many of the set pieces are unique and breathtaking. They are constantly underscored by their live band, a highly impressive duo who create a sound both epic and pensive, as each scene demands. In fact, this was one of the real strengths of Backbone – that the troupe and band were constantly working in close harmony, playing off each otherrhythmically and artistically to keep the performance space alive. The musicians often evoking echoes of the instrumental intricacy of artists such as Sigur Ros or Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Visually the production has a colour scheme of browns, blacks, deep purples, metallic objects and wood which make an appearance throughout, consistently grounding the eye in earth tones. This is a fitting choice as the performance on the whole felt weighty and honest. The lighting is bold, making strong use of side lights to stream across the stage.
Backbone is likely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly if you are looking for more traditional circus act – but for me, this blend of high impact, raw, physical power mixed with quirky humour and some delicate, almost dance-like sequences offered a unique and very entertaining watch.