Review: Backbone at Sydney Festival

A raw, visceral performance from the award-winning acrobatic troupe is currently at Sydney Festival. We sent Addy Fong along to check it out:

The sound of anticipation fills the air as a large audience makes conversation in a packed theatre filled with haze. There are strings of lights on the ceiling and my friend and I are amused, remarking about the energy efficiency and beauty of LED lighting.

All of a sudden the curtain draws open, the crowd immediately falls silent and I can almost hear my thoughts. Resting on the floor of the stage lie the performers, not moving, and I wonder if something’s gone wrong because it feels like it’s been a while and no one has woken up. Is this a contemporary art performance piece I had no idea about? What does it represent?

Before my thoughts can assemble the performers jump up and start moving around, constructing the set with wooden poles in such a quick manner that my eyes need to adjust to sudden movement that contrasts to the stillness at the start. An eruption of movement catapults the performance into full swing, the acrobatic performers accompanied by rhythms and music that sounds ethereal featuring a violin, electric guitar and a synthesiser that contributes to making the performance look and feel amazing, as you watch bodies of performers dance amongst projected light.

Backbone is breathtaking as you watch the circus company Gravity & Other Myths perform in ways you never thought possible. At times your brain is trying to understand the meaning or significance of certain segments in the show and other times you’re in awe of the human pyramid the troupe made in the time you were looking at the way the light projected on to the mirror or watching the musicians play. The performance was thoroughly enjoyable and doesn’t require you to understand words or too much context, echoed by the man sitting next to me who kept exclaiming, ‘this is amazing!’. The whole crowd was mesmerised by the performance, giving the group a standing ovation after their performance.

In amongst the acrobatics, there are lights, mirrors, music, and a whole lot of amazed people – like myself – in the crowd, not believing what our eyes are seeing, appreciating the flexibility of the group Gravity & Other Myths and the beauty and discipline it would have taken to reach such a peak in performance.

I don’t think I even have words to describe what I saw that night, I was simply amazed and was unable to look away, constantly thinking, ‘How can bodies move this way?’

Backbone plays at The Riverside Theatre in Parramatta until January 21. Tickets and details here:



Review by Addy Fong.