It’s good to see the Underbelly Festival back at London’s South Bank for another season, even if outdoor drinks on an unseasonal April evening were a little on the chilly side, with groups huddled around any sources of heat.
Kicking off the season in the main space, The Belly, is Australian new circus company Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) with their show A Simple Space, already seen in thirty other countries. The group performing in London are more than up to the challenge of presenting this highly impressive and tightly rehearsed example of circus art, focusing mainly on hand to hand and balance feats.
The cast of seven (4 men, 3 women) are supported by percussion virtuoso Alex Flood who not only provides a seamless backing for the show but also contributes his own highly impressive body percussion solo including deft audience interaction.
Apart from that interlude, this is an hour of fast-paced, almost delirious feats of tumbling and acrobatics by an ensemble that seem equally talented and all have a chance to shine. Whether falling in all directions with total trust in each other, towering above the audience on each other’s shoulders, often three people high, or being thrown around from one person to another, skill and finesse are the name of the game. The hardworking cast even operate their own lighting (and a word to future audiences – if you sit higher up you won’t get the lights in your eyes too much).
Audience participation – of the gentle rather than intrusive or embarrassing kind – is very much a part of the evening, whether to provide extra obstacles for the cast to leap over and around, or as in one entertaining moment, to give two of the women in the cast the chance to prove who is the strongest.
Playful competitions between the cast, explained through movement and glance rather than words, are very much part of the evening and this provides a lot of fun, whether through strip skipping or when inviting the audience to throw balls at the cast as they stand on their hands. This is a good-natured, often awe-inspiring show and provides a great start to the Underbelly summer season in London.