The words ‘unmissable’ and ‘mesmerising’ are bandied around a lot in performance reviews. Which frustratingly- but perhaps appropriately- means there are no words left to describe pieces like ‘A Simple Space’, the award-winning new show on its global tour with the Australian 8-man company Gravity & Other Myths (GOM), which last night inaugurated Buenos Aires’ ‘Polo Circo’ circus festival.
The group create a stripped-back game-space and, in chinos and cotton T’s, do away with all the worn-out circus stereotypes in a perfectly paced hour of contortion and acrobatics, in which off-hand mini-games blend into stupendous feats of acrobatics so fluidly you can’t process, you can only absorb. Imagine the casual grace of parkour, the charisma of your favorite buddy, and the uncanny satisfaction of witnessing different bodies functioning as one synchronised unit. What you’re imagining is the level one to GOM’s level 10.
Its lack of showman conceit leaves space for it to be genuinely funny: It’s like you’ve walked through star-spangled drapes into the big top and ended up dropping in on your acrobat friends’ down-time BBQ, accompanied by live music somewhere between a freewheeling circus-spiced Bonobo and the more aqueous depths of Jamie XX. It’s the gymnastic equivalent of a jam-session of musical greats, with a rubix cube, forfeits, and some light stripping thrown in for good measure.
We accosted a couple of the team once they’d finished joking with the crowd and hoisting up willing fans for insta-pics outside.
First up, how do you start with these routines?
The main, and I guess unique, thing about our company is that we don’t have a director or choreographer. Just 8 acrobats on the floor, with a similar kind of direction with where we want to go. We’re all talking, we’re all arguing, and sometimes we agree, sometimes it’s really easy. It starts in different ways- Sometimes it starts with a really clear idea for a set and we just build it, sometimes we have some skills or some tricks that we want to put in the show, but we have to create the game, or the challenge, to work it in.
In making the show we wanted to just take our training. When we train we just play games, we fuck around with each other, we say- “i can do more back flips than you’. We’re just hanging out, doing what we do, and games have that sporting feel to it. Everyone can get engaged with that- it’s easy to grasp the rules, like, you can’t let your feet touch the ground, and then it builds the anticipation of the game.
Its that childish element, like floor is lava; everyone can relate to that.
It’s much more engaging when you’re seeing people doing easily understandable things onstage, rather than the glitz, the glamor, the costumes, the music, the theatre lights… it’s easier to remove that fourth wall.
What seems unique is that it feels like we’re watching you guys at a rehearsal: it doesn’t matter if you fuck up, everyone’s still rooting for you.
It’s part of the beauty- if something goes wrong we’re not gonna pretend it didn’t happen. We’re people, we’re just being ourselves on stage- we fucked something up, ok, let’ just do it again.
It’s more real- it happened, and in fact, it’s incredible that that didn’t happen before.
Yeah, the joy is, sometimes we get a trick, and I’m surprised, like: yeah, we got that, woo-hoo, and if we missed, who cares? Pick it up, do it again.
And the music itself is something that would make a stand-alone DJ set.
Yeah, Elliot [Zoerner] has been working with us for 3 years- he does it all himself, he plays it all live. We started off giving him tracks, but then we created the show and he wrote everything himself. He’d come into the training sessions and be like, “hey guys, look at this one”, and well be like “yeah, cool, chop that bit around”… it started to evolve like that.
Does it ever happen that he comes in with a track and it inspires you to work on something?
Definitely, it’s a two-way thing. Sometimes its a fast pace, we’ll jump around and do something bouncy, like the one where [redacted, because, you know, spoilers]- it’s very playful and springy. Its a really nice evolution of making music I guess. It’s fun.
How’s BA been for you?
Yeah, we got here a couple of days ago, drank a lot of wine…
What’s it like performing on a hangover?
It happened once. I tore my shoulder. We have to set very careful boundaries.
‘A Simple Space’, where an amiable euphoria of game-play and synchrony belies the company’s physical and aesthetic mastery, is on at the Polo Circo until Sunday.
It really is the greatest show on earth. Its charm is that it would never, ever, admit it.
Friday 20h30; Saturday 17h00 and 21h30; Sunday 18h00.
Buenos Aires Polo Circo, Parque Patricios, Av. Juan de Garay 2051.
Tickets $120ARS, available online from TuEntrada, or for purchase at Polo Circo, El Cultural San Martín, and Teatro 25 de Mayo.