ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

13/03/2019 - 17/03/2019

Auckland Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

From Gravity & Other Myths

Combining brains, muscle, teamwork and heart, Backbone is an acrobatic marvel you have to see to believe. Its jaw-dropping physical feats conquer the impossible with the bare essentials: strength, spirit and creativity that will have you on the edge of your seat and smiling from ear to ear.

From revolutionary Australian company Gravity & Other Myths, whose boundary-defying acts have elevated it to the pinnacle of international contemporary circus, this acclaimed new show is a playful and powerful showcase of what they do best: celebrating human connectedness through daring leaps of faith, highlighted by incredible performers, award-winning stagecraft and sublime live music.

Sweaty, sinuous and seriously impressive, Backbone is circus stripped back to its physical and emotional core, and is all the more exhilarating for it.

“[The] perfect combination of fluidity, mettle and danger… It’s simply a joy to watch.” — Limelight

Recommended for ages 8+


Creative Team
Acrobats: Martin Schreiber, Lachlan Binns, Jascha Boyce, Jacob Randell, Lewie West, Lewis Rankin, Joanne Curry, Mieke Lizotte, Lachlan Harper and Jackson Manson
Musician/Composers: Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory

Creative Associate: Triton Tunis-Mitchell


Cirque-aerial-theatre , Circus , Theatre ,

1 hr 20 mins

Sheer power and agility

Review by Kerry Bennison 15th Mar 2019

Backbone is a exploration of human strength and examines whether it is in the collective or the individual. It is a stripped back, honest look into the acrobatic world and the communication and trust between the performers.  

The piece begins organically, while we watch everyone set up the space. Costume changes,sticks of various sizes, buckets, rocks and live musicians tuning  instruments. Performers begin to do handstands and warm up with each other and there is an instantaneous social aspect of the performance which is evident throughout its entirety. Things quickly transition to various duets and trios, tumbling/catching/falling/climbing, and lots of “oohs” and “aahs” can be heard throughout the audience. As quickly as things have built up, we transition into another section and at this point I must mention what a phenomenal job Lighting (and Stage) Designer, Geoff Cobham has done creating different lighting states for each transition and subsequent segment.

The buckets turn into blindfolds and a collective pyramid is built while a single performer balances in a handstand on top of two buckets. A juxtaposition clearly to emphasise the storyline but perhaps a little too obvious?

Musicians, Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory, join the acrobats on stage for a hilarious elastic band game and I enjoy that they continue to create the soundscape with bodypercussion so each section has a continual underlying score. Sections continue to move between a music-led tableaux, soldier dance party and group handshake that lightheartedly pushes and pulls each other before everything slows right down for a ‘manipulation’ solo by Jascha Boyce. While this solo is impressive in its own right, watching her backbone twist and turn by the movements of everyone else around her and strength required to do this holding onto a heavy rock – if you missed her coming into the audience to hand another rock to a patron at the very beginning, you would have no idea why her focus is fixed in this particular spot and why this individual has a spotlight on her except for assuming she was chosen on lightingchoice alone.

We shift again to see all 10 acrobats balance poles on their foreheads and the audiencegoes silent as if to hold their breath in waiting for one to fall. Mieke Lizotte holds steadfast and is chosen to be lifted into the air with poles on her limbs before only one remains on her back, complete trust in her comrades below.

The energy intensifies and we shift back to the group tumbling, throwing themselves between different partners and giving us a few pockets of unison we haven’t seen from them yet. However, by this point I am really wanting to see something new in how they tumble.

They continue long enough for me to think this is the finale before we are introduced to yet another new section, slower and calmer, where rocks are hoisted in a large net and various balances are performed underneath while the rocks gradually lower and loom closer to their bodies.

While I can appreciate the clear nod back to overall theme and how they are conveying it at every point, I sense the energy in the performance has shifted and the physical demands onperformers are starting to show. Perhaps there is a way they can incorporate this section earlier or combine into another section so we can all stay on the higher energy section from before. In saying this, I in no way want to diminish the significant amount of training or physical limits these performers all push themselves towards throughout the show – they all do an outstanding job and must be applauded for their sheer power and agility. 

We finish with a reprise of all sections (the “backbone” of the show if you will) before and while I have understood and acknowledged their theme across all sections, for me what feels flat is the overall journey as an audience member and I leave feeling that a gradual build of sections, with less repetitive movement and further variation would have given me more of the ‘wow factor’.


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