How long can you hold your breath for? How many back flips can you do in one go? Can you stand on your head? Or……Could you stand on somebody elses?
My dear readers, I can hear you saying, to yourselves or indeed, to somebody adjacent to you that I’ve finally flipped and started asking random questions but no, you are mistaken. These questions make up the tagline for A Simple Space at The Udderbelly.
For the uninitiated amongst you, (you are forgiven!) The Udderbelly is a giant, Up-turned purple cow. Not a real one, you understand but a circus tent come theatre come performance space that sits proudly on the Southbank from 9th of April until 19th of July 2015.
A Simple Space is a show that inhabits the aforementioned space from 21st of April up until 24th of May. It is an acrobatic circus show unlike any that you may have seen before. Unlike others (not mentioning any French inspired Cirque themed shows) there is little glitz. There are no be-feathered head-dresses. No mawkish make-up. There is a simple platform that, quite honestly looked like no bigger square footage than my back bedroom. On each corner there are poles on which are secured the stage lights. I say stage lights, there are no giant par cans (theatre parlance………Google it!) No blinding Super Troopers (again, Google!) in fact it could be said that I have had more dazzling light displays on my Christmas tree than there is on this stage but, it’s not needed here. What we are about to be dazzled by is the sheer skill, dexterity and, at times seemingly impossible feats that are happening in front of our very eyes.
Gravity & Other Myths are one of Australia’s hottest young circus ensembles (in more ways than one, I can tell you!) I am going to attempt a name check here but as I couldn’t find a printed cast list I spoke to one of the guys after the show, Dan Liddiard to get the names, and between us we may have some miss-spellings. To the cast, I apologise in advance if I make any mistakes here but I think maybe that you should point any accusatory fingers in Dan’s direction. I think he wants the spotlight. Watch that one!
Anyway, here goes. In addition to Mr Liddiard (see, 3 mentions already!) the troupe consists of Lachye Binns, Rhianna Cave-Walker (her real name………. Obviously her path was mapped out at an early age!) Jacob Randell, Marty Schreiber, Triton Michel, Jascha Boyce and Simon Mclure. They are incredible. They mix acrobatics with contemporary dance and comedy set to a modernistic soundscape that is also performed live on stage (with the aide of computers).
Right from the start, the energy is pumping. This is helped along nicely when three of the really rather handsome men engage in a skipping competition. Now, to many this may sound like a rather flat, indeed even lame way to start a show. You couldn’t be many more bus stops away from the truth. This is no school girl skipping. It is high octane, fast paced, manly skipping. And, if mistakes are made then an item of clothing has to be removed……….. it is at this point that I must interject. Regular readers will be aware that I usually have a companion with me when I pop out on my little theatrical sojourns. The man of few words, Mr Smith. Tonight was no different apart from the fact that I couldn’t shut him up this time. To be brutally honest I think he may be getting a little above his station now and, quite frankly people are beginning to talk about our relationship but that’s my cross to bare and nothing for you to lose precious sleep over. Any road up, by this point he is fanning himself furiously with what I hope wasn’t an undergarment and I did think we would need St Johns on standby just in case. The “competition” draws to a close when one of the fine specimens is naked. Being a family friendly show there is no male genitalia on show. The denuded Adonis uses his hands (yes BOTH!) to spare his chagrin.
What follows is a full hour of heart stopping somersaults. Balancing and climbing. Tossing and launching each other across the stage. Using their fellow performers as climbing frames and generally doing things those most mere humans would balk at the thought of doing. All of this takes place without any safety nets, wires or crash mats. Imagine, if you will standing atop another human being. In fact look to the person nearest you right now and try to think what it would be like to be perched precariously upon their shoulders, then add another person to that teetering stack. All under the gaze of an audience whom, in some part I’m sure are waiting for a fall. I don’t know about you but it makes me want to lie down in a darkened room with a cup of sweet tea and compose myself.
At one point our funambulists (you are going to be busy googling, aren’t you!) start dousing their heads with what one assumes is chalk (although the ever so chirpy Mr “who let the budgie out the cage” Smith harked back to the days of Yardley Sandalwood at this stage whilst I beckoned the paramedics) and then proceed to defy equilibrium by walking around the dais with another individual on their heads. It’s madness I tell you. All this and human percussion instruments and a brief period of balls in your face! (not as dirty as it sounds but you’ll have to go and see it to find out what it means!)
In conclusion, a spectacular show is comprised of pure, unadulterated talent. The hours of practice that has gone into this work is evident and I’m sure there must have been a fair amount of injuries along the way too. And to quote my companion “it’s been a while since so many men made me gasp!” You have a few weeks left to grab yourselves a ticket so get down to the big purple cow and see some great entertainment.
Review by Dickie Neil
A Simple Space
Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Running Time: 1 hour
Show Opened: 21st Apr 2015
Booking Until: 24th May 2015
Latecomers may not be admitted.
Tuesday to Friday 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 6.00pm
Friday 24th April 2015