Circus has come a long way from red-coated ringmasters and performing animals. Contemporary acts have to work hard on their USP to draw in the crowds. “A Simple Space”, by the Australian group Gravity & Other Myths, now showing at Udderbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe, takes a bare, black stage with stark white lights in each corner, and brings it alive with energetic choreography and skilful acrobatics set to percussive music.
The performers are seven acrobats (five men and two women) who wear plain tops and shorts and use minimal props. The show opens with each of them shouting “falling” in turn and keeling over like a tree, only to be caught by another just before just they hit the floor while the rest bound around doing flips. One-upmanship plays a big role. Three male acrobats stage a strip-skipping competition, skipping at warp-speed until one of them trips and has to shed a T-shirt or shorts – the loser ends up with his underwear round his ankles and his hands protecting his modesty. There is more testosterone-fuelled fun when the five men compete to do the most somersaults in time to an ever-faster beat. But it's not all macho posturing. At one point they race to make a balloon-dog with their hands behind their backs. Later, they give the audience hundreds of coloured plastic balls and invite them to hurl them at the stage while they all try and hold a handstand.
As well as games, there are acrobatic stunts – totem poles three acrobats high, one acrobat walking across the others heads like stepping stones. In one sequence two acrobats clamber over the feet, thighs, chest and shoulders of a third as the three of them twist and turn, cantilevering their weight into mind-bending poses. The finale ups the tempo again as the men swing the women like skipping ropes, launching them through the air in an exhilarating playground game. "A Simple Space" is far removed from the painted clowns of old and it’s supremely entertaining.
A Simple Space Udderbelly in Bristo Square, Edinburgh, until August 25th