The beautiful promotional images don't even half do this show justice. And while standing ovations can sometimes feel obligatory in the small Vancouver theatre scene, I have never been a part of a more complete, enthusiastic and vocally appreciative standing ovation than the one at the opening night of Backbone at the Playhouse Theatre. The piece is a combination or circus and physical theatre. Not with a narrative per se, but with strong images, themes, and a beautifully sculpted through-line that will leave you feeling not only awe-inspired by the strength, flexibility and daring of the performers in the kaleidoscope of movement that flurries across the stage, but also emotionally and intellectually satisfied.
One of the things I loved most about this production was how much FUN these performers where having! Melody, my date for the evening, even saw one of the women, as she was flying through the air being thrown from one group on the stage to another, and then another, stick her tongue out mid-air at one of the other performers she was flying by. While these acrobats are obviously dedicated to their craft and while their team work and focus and high level of communication is evident, there's also a deep sense of play, of camaraderie and joyful competition as they tease one another, test one another and explore what they are capable of as individuals and as a group. To have ten bodies moving at top speed on stage rolling, jumping, catching, throwing, being thrown all at once was just mind-boggling to witness.
So much was going on, so fast and so unbelievable that I know I'll be rolling these images around in my head for weeks. If you're fascinated by the ability of the well-trained human body, by the beauty of dance, or if you get revved up by high energy ensemble pieces, then Backbone is a must-see. I found it thought provoking, mysterious, fun, silly, beautiful, and an astounding display of talent.
Backbone by Gravity and Other Myths, hosted by the Cultch, is playing at the Vancouver Playhouse until 4 November 2018. Tickets at https://thecultch.com/events/backbone/
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
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