Every now and then a work comes along to challenge our perception of human connection, strength, tenacity, and resilience.
Out of the apocalypse that was 2020, Gravity and Other Myths [GOM] created their most ambitious work yet – The Pulse.
Their highly structured international touring model was in tatters and they had to reinvent themselves for a new world.
A world where touching each other was taboo and where people and communities were constantly readjusting and responding to the changing environment around them.
I was privy to seeing some rehearsals and work in progress, but nothing prepared me for the behemoth I was about to witness.
A cast of 30 strong acrobats and 30 young female vocalists brought The Pulse to life.
Upon being seated, adorned with masks, the membranous soundscape, designed by Mik LaVage, strikes you in the core – reverberating through your soul with its ominous and palpating tones.
With the house lights still shining bright, the curtain rises ever so slowly to reveal a bare stage, set as a rehearsal space – no wings nor flats, no back curtain.
Just a blank, open canvas.
By this stage, the sound system is pulsating through our bodies.
Then, the vocalists begin.
Aurora, the senior vocal ensemble from South Australian youth choir, Young Adelaide Voices, were in a word; exceptional.
With composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix and conducted by the incomparable Christie Anderson, these young singers entwined the project together with their ritualistic and ceremonial singing, interspersed with spoken word and verbal samples.
They were magnificent in moments of extreme volume and in dead silence.
While the choir simulate the universal vocal warmup ‘1,1,2,1’ as a chant, the acrobats rise and fall, spin and twist in shapes you would not believe are humanly possible.
With a fluidity of a ballet dancer and strength of a weightlifter, these formidable physical theatre performers really have the audience on the edge of their seat the entire time.
Piling themselves effortlessly as totems; first as a two high, then three high as one brave performer is suspended before falling to the gasp of the audience ahead of a blackout.
Moments like these are frequent – where the extraordinary performers are constantly pushing the boundaries of risk and gamble and draw rapturous [and relieved!] applause every time they soar, fly and catch each other.
There is a point where one of the choir members states, ‘I feel like they are gonna do something dangerous’ and you can feel the audience collectively heave in agreeance!
Much kudos to designer Geoff Cobham – the lighting was incredible, shifting us from scene to scene with shadows, spotlights and fluorescent tints.
Ropes are dropped from the stage ceiling and dress circle to make an intricate web and add another degree of radiance as they become awash with luminous and vibrant streaks.
During a comedic scene, one of the acrobats used bodies as stepping stones, which induced guttural and throaty noises from said performers, and was a segue into a haunting and hilarious rendition of ‘Mary had a little Lamb’
From choreographed falls to organised chaos, GOM make every skill, trick, and move look effortless, nimble and graceful.
It is evident this company have an ethos of trust, loyalty, and camaraderie, as everything they do has such an element of risk and peril, but you know they have each other backs.
Well done to director Darcy Grant and the entire production team for creating a jaw-dropping, edge of your seat, virtuoso production that must be seen to be believed.
You certainly have claimed your position as Australia’s leading contemporary circus company.
Bravo GOM, bravo!
Happy theatre travels…