If Backbone was 50 minutes, rather than 70 minutes, long it would be a five-star triumph.
Backbone, Underbelly Bristo Square, * * * *
The level of skill and ingenuity poured into the acrobatic routines by Australian company Gravity & Other Myths, is phenomenal. So why they feel the need to pad out this show with lame, and at times cruel, attempts at humour is baffling.
Perhaps because their previous Fringe hit, A Simple Space, was so stripped back, they felt the need to over-populate this one.
With ten circus artists and two musicians, this is already a big show, made bigger by countless props and costume changes.
The first five minutes is spent pulling on clothes, tidying away poles and buckets and picking up stones – then another five minutes is spent pouring tiny stones everywhere.
When they do finally get to the business at hand, Backbone is truly impressive. Not just in a people tower, strong hand balance, flipping high in the air kind of way (although they do that too, brilliantly) but in the thought that has gone into joining each trick up.
Bodies fly from one person to the next unexpectedly, or are pushed over with a glancing foot – essentially, if there’s an interesting way to do something, they’ll find it.
At one point, all ten balance a long pole on their foreheads without a single wobble.
Beautifully lit from the side (the lighting design throughout is super), and with lasers shooting across the stage, it’s a real sight to behold.
With so much artistry in their grasp, why waste precious minutes on a nasty game where the losers are whacked painfully across bare stomachs with a strip of elastic? Or staging a mock fight about starting positions? There’s so much pure gold here, if only they’d cut away the rust.
Until 26 August