Tag: Geoff Cobham

Melbourne Festival 2017: BACKBONE

Stand strong

By Myron My

Just when you think you’ve seen all that is possible in circus, along comes Backbone (by Adelaide company Gravity and Other Myths) that makes you think again. Presented as part of the Melbourne Festival, this show examines the need of strength and support from those around us, and a need to be able to come together as a unified front if we are to ever succeed in life, wonderfully represented through some mind-boggling acrobatics.


There’s a strong ritualistic aesthetic in Backbone as the performers pour buckets of sand early in the show onto the stage in varying patterns. They begin to move left to right across the floor in a repetitive rite-of-passage while executing captivating body rotations, twists, flips, balances, jumps and turns that I’ve never witnessed before. These bodies are doing things that should be physically impossible and it’s baffling as to how they keep their energy and momentum going for the entire 75 minutes.

The strength, teamwork, flexibility and trust that lies within this troupe (Martin Schreiber, Lachlan Binns, Jascha Boyce, Jacob Randell, Lewie West, Lewis Rankin, Joanne Curry, Mieke Lizotte, Lachlan Harper, Jackson Manson) is clearly evident, as bodies are thrown from one side of the stage and caught on the other and three-person human towers are constructed. Boyce’s hypnotic suit and rock act has her fixing her sight out towards the audience, remaining expressionless throughout her act so even as she stands precariously on the shoulders of one performer and is being passed to another, her eyes stay locked and she remains calm, knowing everything will go according to plan.

Director Darcy Grant ensures an energised pace for the show, while providing the opportunity for the audience to savour every second of what is transpiring on stage – not only through the performers but also with the production’s technical and artistic design too. Elliot Zoerner and Shenton Gregory‘s original score heightens the tension and drama allowing the audience to become fully enveloped by what they are seeing. Each act is perfectly matched with music that has these musicians seamlessly swapping from one instrument to another.

The laser and lighting design by Geoff Cobham is impeccable, as his rig beams across the stage and shines down from above. The lighting refracts off mirrors hanging from the ceiling, creating mesmerising patterns and stunning images on stage, with some performers veiled in shadows while other are brightly lit under the hues of the various colours.

Gravity and Other Myths return to Melbourne in January 2018 with another show, A Simple Space, which – after having seen Backbone – I will not be missing. Not only has this circus company delivered my favourite circus show of the year with Backbone, but quite possibly one of my favourite circus shows ever.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

Season: Until 8 October | Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2pm

Tickets: $30 – $59 

Bookings: Melbourne Festival


You’ll be talking about it afterwards…

By Caitlin McGrane

Harold Pinter’s seminal and affecting play Betrayal transports the audience back to London in the 1970s, a time historically associated with sexual liberation and experimentation. Emma (Alison Bell) and Jerry (Nathan O’Keefe) have had an affair for seven years; they have a flat where they meet on afternoons to escape from their spouses and families. While Jerry’s wife is only ever alluded to, Emma’s husband Robert (Mark Saturno) is Jerry’s best friend and plays second fiddle to Emma and Jerry while they conduct their illicit affair.

Betrayal. Photo by Shane Reid

Emma’s marriage is clearly violent and unhappy, and while the script is tight and trimmed of all fat, it is a crying shame that Robert gets all the best lines. To Saturno’s credit he delivers the lines extremely well, but it is still jarring for a character so repugnant to be so well received. Bell shines as Emma, lending an often-needed lightness to a woman troubled and conflicted. Pinter is known for his silences, and Bell was fearless letting them hang over the audience. I also enjoyed O’Keefe as the spineless Jerry whose selfishness regarding Emma is matched only by Robert’s concern about her as his possession. I walked away from the theatre reminded once again of the astonishing selfish fragility of the male ego: I want to go for drinks with Emma and roll our eyes at men’s ridiculous desire to control and subjugate women; I’d like to watch a spin-off about Emma and what she did without Robert.

Director Geordie Brookman and lighting and set designer Geoff Cobham have constructed a mis en scene that evokes the spirit of the time, with scene changes taking place like a record; nearly all costume changes occur on stage, the actors seeming to choose their clothes from a rotating rack, which was a novel and interesting way of showing Emma and Jerry’s intimacy. The soundtrack, composed by Jason Sweeney, is harsh yet strangely effective at reflecting the mood of each scene.

In all, Betrayal was an excellent way to spend Saturday night, and I would highly recommend seeing it then dissecting it over wine with friends. Betrayal is showing at MTC’s Southbank Theatre until 3 October 2015. Tickets available here: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/mainstage-2015/betrayal/

Image by Shane Reid


Fascinating fable enchants all

By Bradley Storer

Australian cabaret and musical theatre star Paul Capsis comes to Melbourne with Little Bird, a dark modern fairytale by playwright Nicki Bloom, with music and songs by Cameron Goodall and Quentin Grant.

Little Bird

Little Bird tells the story of a young boy named Wren, magically conceived by the fall of feather on a winter’s day, and his journey to find a missing parent as well as discover his own identity. Bloom’s writing thrillingly mines a vein of moral and sexual ambiguity to create a bewitching narrative that draws questions of gender, love and the essential idea of the self.

The show works best when it stays within the realm of the fantastical and fey – the first section of the show, interwoven with the voice of a mysterious and bird-like narrator, is intensely engaging in its sparse poetical prose that draws on all the tropes of fairy tales while twisting and subverting them in thrilling new ways. When the tale reaches a metropolitan city and touches on the story of a cross-dressing woodcutter, the narrative takes a turn into punk rock territory, reminiscent of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which although entertaining jars against the overall tone of the show in a way that makes it far less compelling.

Capsis himself is never less than completely spell-binding, his use of body and voice a masterclass in story-telling, summoning up all the characters with a simple shift in posture and voice while always maintaining the clarity of Wren’s own central development and journey reacting against these other characters. His androgynous rock-star charisma is used to great effect at various points, roaring glam-rock ballads that recall the work of Queen and David Bowie along with scintillating gypsy rhythms, but always finding the deep vulnerability and sadness of Wren to tear-inducing effect. The simple but surprisingly versatile set and incredibly nuanced lighting provided by Geoff Cobham must also be praised, responding to the mood and rhythm of the story in ways that heighten the drama and atmosphere invaluably.

This rich, luscious fable starring one of our best country’s best performers is truly an event not to be missed, drawing us into a dream-like, magical (but on some level, still achingly real) landscape that leaves the audience with the visceral and satisfying joy of a story well told.

Venue: Playhouse, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd
Time: 8pm, 5pm Tuesday February 1st
Dates: 29th January – 4th February
Price: $49 Premium, $39 A-Reserve, $30 Under 30’s, Concession also available.
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, at the box office.