A Simple Space turns stage into an exhilarating acrobatic playground

Affable, intimate show is the polar opposite of Cirque du Soleil

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      A Gravity & Other Myths production presented by the Cultch. At the York Theatre on Tuesday, October 13. Continues until October 24

      All sorts of involuntary sounds were coming out of me: gasps, moans, little animal whimpers of fear. Then there was the whooping and cheering.

      In A Simple Space, the Australian acrobatic company Gravity & Other Myths presents an hourlong program that will leave you wrung out—and very happy.

      In stripped-down staging that’s the polar opposite of a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, the seven acrobats and single musician in the touring company occupy a bare, black space in the middle of the York Theatre stage. There are light stands on the four corners of the playing area and the simply clad tumblers flick the switches themselves.

      The show is intimate. Some audience members get to sit on-stage within licking distance of the action, and, even if you’re not that lucky, the York Theatre isn’t very big, so wherever you are, it’s easy to hear the sounds of effort. As the performers hurl one another through space, and climb one another’s bodies to build teetering towers of flesh and bone, you can hear their grunts and heavy breathing.

      You can also see them grinning like idiots, because, let’s face it: they’re having the time of their lives. The whole show is built on play, on the sheer joy of occupying a body. The tone is like a back-yard game, but the skill level is upped by about a zillion.

      A lot of the numbers in the almost-wordless performance are driven by competition. So Daniel Liddiard tries to stand on his hands longer than any of the other company members can hold their breath, for instance—which means that he’s upside down for frickin’ ever. And three of the guys skip as fast as they can; whenever one of them trips up, he has to remove an article of clothing. Yippee!

      But these are only the warm-up acts. As the evening progresses, the skills get ever more impressive and the tension ramps up. Before long, Liddiard is leaping from one set of shoulders to another, then he’s flipping and tumbling through space in combinations that look impossible to land—and sometimes very nearly are. Jascha Boyce refuses to stay earthbound; give her some bodies to climb and she scrambles up to stomach-churning heights, as bright-eyed as a five-year-old—and her aerial flips cap the evening.

      Rhythmically, texturally, and choreographically, A Simple Space is varied and inventive. In the opening sequence, company members race around, stop, fall straight backwards, and get caught by their comrades. The routine pops with all the geometric energy of a Piet Mondrian painting.

      Kids will love this show. So will you.