Backbone is a show with a budget. Occupying the Underbelly in Bristo Square (the McEwan Hall to Edinburgh residents) for the next three weeks, featuring ten performers, two musicians and a lighting plot that would be more at home in a pop concert, this is the kind of circus you don’t often see in the Fringe. That said, it’s a show that would be nothing without the grit, grim determination, sweat and muscle of the performers.
It’s easy to embellish circus with costumes, sound effects and all sorts of technical trickery. Director Darcy Grant’s show rejects such fripperies. With only a bunch of cast iron buckets, a sack of rocks (you’ll see), a wire, some poles and a handy suit of armour, the human body is the hero.
And not for Gravity & Other Myths the showman flourishes of the traditional acrobat. This circus is messy, stern-faced focused, refusing to let us wow along by posing for praise at the end of each routine. Instead, the performers stare us out, daring us to deny our sweaty palms and frank amazement that such feats are possible with only a scattering of sand as a safety blanket.
‘Raw’ is an over-used word in reviews, but this is acrobatics stripped bare. Pyramids of people, lifts and holds supported by not nearly enough to grip on to. No flying equipment for this lot—they just hurl each other around the stage. Lachlan Harper’s Olympic-worthy somersaults defy gravity. And Geoff Cobham’s stellar lighting plot shows it all off to thrilling effect.
Musicians Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory use a full drum kit and keyboard/violin respectively to provide an atmospheric and suspenseful soundtrack that perfectly matches the mood of each routine. We veer from classically lyrical to jazz to rock to something verging on klezmer. And occasionally, they take a turn as part of the act.
Dance and visual theatre as much as circus, Backbone is a vision of how incredible the human body can be. It’s audacious, exhilarating and full of wonder. Properly awesome stuff.