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A Simple Space (Edinburgh Fringe): Review

simple space Throwing shapes. Performers of Gravity & Other Myths. Photograph: Courtesy of the Production.

Dangerous and literally unbelievable, Aussie circus Gods Gravity & Other Myths’ A Simple Space is nothing short of mesmerising impossibility!

Aussie circus troupe, Gravity & Other Myths, bring last year’s smash-hit show, A Simple Space, back to London’s Underbelly Festival for one final fling, igniting a trio of circus acts headlining the festival.

Concept

A Simple Space’s concept lives up to its name. There is no set, scant props, and minimal lighting. The idea behind A Simple Space and Gravity & Other Myths’ approach to the show is to really strip things back to the very basics, removing the performance far away from traditional circus and theatrical devices as possible. It gives the audience a chance to watch the show unhindered and without distraction, with their focus squarely on the physical action.

Despite A Simple Space being a very sparse affair, it by no means means that the show is void of interest. As well some outlandishly implausible sequences, there are some wonderful little interludes that break up the otherwise breakneck octane. These little reprieves, as well as giving both the performers and the audience a chance to catch their breaths, add a sense of character on top of the humour and charisma that already comes through in the main segments. They all take place as little competitions, such as how long you can hold your breath, how many back-flips you can do in quick succession without falling over, and even a game of strip-skipping! It adds a real sense of personality and rapport between you and the performers. They might be performing impossible feats, but they’re still very personable people, and it really adds to A Simple Space’s sense of fun and energy.

Simple Space

Not a load of old balls. Performers of Gravity & Other Myths. Photograph: Courtesy of the production.

Direction & Production

Given that the whole point of the show is that there’s almost zero production values means that this is going to be a short section! However, much like Bare Essentials’ approach to new short playwriting, A Simple Space is actually enhanced by the Spartan approach, because you can’t really focus on anything but the action. In saying that, the acrobatic skills on show are so powerful and astonishing enough that even with all the production values that could be thrown at it, it would be very difficult to do anything but fix an enthralled gaze upon the performers. The simple approach makes the entire show feel pure, visceral, and real.

The live music/percussion provided by one of the troupe moves things along nicely, and also has the flexibility of making sure the music stays in time and follows the performance and performers. Even though it’s a lot of mixed electronic sounds and samples, it still has the feel that it’s immediate and alive in just how it moulds itself and responds to what’s going on around it.

Performance

I’ll admit that, whilst I enjoy circus, I wasn’t really expecting much new from A Simple Space. It’s was more a case of familiarity than prejudice. However, A Simple Space was anything but comfortably recognisable. The feats that Gravity & Other Myths perform are really pushing the possibilities of what acrobatic circus can actually achieve.

The stunts in A Simple Space are downright dangerous and literally nail-biting. Many of them, especially how they use their own bodies against their fellow-performers, look like some new cruel and unusual form of Aussie torture than innocuous circus folly. Audience members were literally gasping, and some even screaming, at some of the things they were doing on stage. There is a fresh sense of intense caprice and originality in everything they do, and because of this, A Simple Space is completely unpredictable and surprising. You’ll never have seen anything like this, and quite likely, won’t see acts like these replicated with ease anywhere else or with as much unbridled panache.

Simple Space

Walking on sunshine/heads. Performers of Gravity & Other Myths. Photograph: Courtesy of the production.

You get the sense of how boundary-pushing and difficult the performances are in the fact that the performers don’t always pull the stunts off, especially leaps and balances, first time around. They fail, and do so more than once. However, they always achieved what they were supposed to in at least the second attempt. But it goes to show that, despite the imagination and the intricate nature of what they’ve devised, it’s no walk in the park. Even for these circus Gods, the show is as challenging for them as it is mind-boggling to watch.

Lastly, despite the exertion and the effort, Gravity & Other Myths never stop having fun, even if they are literally dripping with sweat and grimacing from the monumental strain they put their bodies through. Because of this, A Simple Space is an infectious marvel, even if it’s shockingly unnerving at the same time!

Verdict

The devil must have had a very profitable week purchasing the souls from these eight super-humans! A Simple Space is an adrenaline-pumping spectacular that will completely exploded everything you thought you knew or expected about circus.

A Simple Space plays at Underbelly George Square (venue 300), Edinburgh, EH8 9LH, until 25 August 2016. Tickets are £14.50 – £15.50 (concessions available). To book, visit tickets.edfringe.com.
A Simple Space was reviewed during its run at the Udderbelly Festival, London, SE1 8XX, in May 2015.

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