26 Apr REVIEW: A Simple Space at the Udderbelly Festival
The big purple cow is back on the south bank, and seeing those heliotrope bovine mammaries saluting the sunshine can only mean one thing. The Udderbelly Festival is here, and it’s heralding the start of summer. Kicking off our coverage of the festival in style, is Aussie acrobatic ensemble Gravity and Other Myths, presenting a breathtaking show of strength, agility and collaboration: A Simple Space.
Flipping, jumping, balancing, falling and climbing, A Simple Space tests the limits of what’s possible for a group of humans to do with their bodies, in what’s less a series of impressive stunts than an elegantly composed performance, incorporating a series impressive stunts. Avoiding the too-common pitfall of labouring any one act, the show hits high after high, flowing seamlessly between them thanks to the personalities of the performers that – somehow – come across on stage.
As they step away from the glossy leotards and wacky face paint that we’re used to seeing in acrobatic circus shows, Gravity and Other Myths give us sweaty bodies and strained expressions, raw and authentic as they wow time and time again. This almost gritty presentation is exactly what makes A Simple Space feel so exciting; seeing the performers as real people who are competitive, fallible, and impossibly strong and agile, a team with real spirit that imposes forfeits for the first to fall, pushing each other harder and harder and onto more astounding feats.
But as a show it’s also funny. Not a jaded, Cirque du Soleil style, “time for a clown to come on stage and pull some faces” kind of funny, but a genuine laugh-out-loud self-deprecating funny, that includes you in the joke rather than being an audience to it.
On the point of entertainment value, it would be fair to say that if watching gymnastics, just to see Louis Smith do his thing, is your bag, A Simple Space doesn’t so much bring that bag as bring a whole plane load of suitcases. Incredible physiques ripped with functional muscle, flinging each other around, balancing, counterbalancing, holding and falling, the men and woman aren’t overtly sexualised despite being at the pinnacle of physical fitness – though there is definitely something animalistic about all the sweat, groaning and panting that’s never hidden or disguised.
Boasting integrity, authenticity and a whole lot of humour, it’s the raw physicality of its performers that grabs the headlines. With next to no props, simple lighting and the smallest of stages to work within, the people are hypnotising, their relationships infinitely watchable, and their talent breathtaking. Relentlessly entertaining from start to finish, A Simple Space is an intense hour of real jeopardy that’ll leave your mind in a spin, heart pounding and face smiling. Besides, what’s not to love about watching someone solve a Rubik’s cube standing only on their head?
For tickets and information: udderbelly.co.uk
Venue: Udderbelly Festival, London’s South Bank
Dates: 21st April – 24th May 2015
Images: Chris Herzfeld