The Mirror

Gravity and Other Myths. Director Darcy Grant. Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House. 11 Feb – 9 March, 2023

Reviewed : February 11, 2023*

Photo : Daniel Boud

Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) is the Adelaide based acrobatic contemporary circus troupe that is stunning the world with its creative performances. In the words of director, performer, photographer and Helpmann Award winner Darcy Grant, the company entertains “through the language of contemporary circus”. Surely a massive understatement, because Gravity of Myths does much more. Founded in 2007, it has taken its shows around the world, winning fourteen international awards, including three inaugural International Circus Awards in 2021.

The Mirror, its latest production, comes fresh from performances in Germany where it was described in the Berliner Morgenpost as “contemporary circus in its purest form”. If “contemporary circus” means a combination of acrobatics, dance, music, lighting and visual art – then The Mirror has all of that in a performance that is breathtaking not only for its flips and flying feats, but for the sheer theatricality of its staging.

Photo : Daniel Boud

Described by the company as “both a nod to the extremes that people will go to please others and a reflection on the hidden parts of ourselves that make us unique”, The Mirror combines the wonder of an amazing combination of acrobatics and dance with a humorous musical narrative that weaves around and through the production. The performers, as well as incredibly strong, athletic and imaginative gymnasts and dancers, are acutely aware of the theatrical potential of technology. In this production, under the direction of Darcy Grant, they have developed a performance that acknowledges that potential as well as ‘mirroring’ how it has influenced contemporary society.

Using an LED wall, fluorescent tubes, film, cameras and selfie sticks, and the voice and imagination of composer, singer and dancer Ekrem Eli Phoenix, the ensemble –  Martin Schreiber, Simon McClure, Lisa Goldsworthy, Lewis Rankin, Dylan Phillips, Emily Gare, Jascha Boyce, Lachlan Binns and Maya Tregonning – present a continuing, contiguous series of images that appear from behind moving curtains or are reflected  in or projected on a mirror-like screen.

Photo : Daniel Boud

Some images are static, pyramids of five or seven bodies that have miraculously formed in a few seconds behind a moving curtain. Others involve bodies being walked on, up and over, being thrown, flipped and caught in a whirlwind of movements that involve all nine supple, highly trained and highly aware athletes. Trust is intrinsic in this art form. Trust in the anchor holding three, four or five bodies; trust in being thrown to land on that tower of bodies, or from one performer to another. Trust in oneself to twist and turn in a series of gymnastic contortions that stretch the body beyond imagination.

All are achieved in a series of vignettes, some that establish the talent and athleticism of the company, others that play into Eli Phoenix’s “Pop mash-ups” (his words) of songs and grabs of lyrics. All feed into the humour that begins with his initial entrance in white singlet, y-fronts and an open bath robe and continues with segments such as a love scene where two performers are deftly manipulated by other ensemble members to ‘see’ each other, flirt a little, come together in a kiss – and stay “kissed” together as they are raised, lowered, twisted and turned in the suggestion of a torrid love scene. It is an ingenious piece of theatre performed with perfect timing – both acrobatically and theatrically.

The humour in segments like this is carefully and skilfully developed, using the acting skills of the performers as well as their acrobatic prowess. Contemporary audiences are demanding, attuned as they are to multi-disciplined media events, and GOM meets that demand adeptly, whether it be through the amazing athleticism of Dylan Phillips, who pushes his body to remarkable feats and shapes and paces. Or the comedic timing of Simon McClure and his cheeky, expressive eyes. Or the strength of Maya Tregonning when she is the trusted anchor.

Photo : Daniel Boud

Every member of this company, including its directors and designers can boast a wealth of training and experience in multiple areas of the arts. Most of the performers began with very early classes in dance or ballet or gymnastics, progressed to the many circus academies or university courses here in Australia, then worked companies such as Cirque du Soleil and Circa. This experience is constantly enhanced by trying new feats, developing new skills – and collaborating on ideas for new and exciting projects. All of this is “mirrored” in this exciting, intriguing piece of theatrical acrobatic artistry.

It is no wonder this relatively young company has achieved such international recognition – and this latest example of their clever, complex, multi-faceted work is here for another month. Do see it!

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening night