There’s no greater accolade that any performance can earn from an audience than unabashed enthusiasm. Check that. Call it what it is. Glee. In fact, whatever you’d call the adult equivalent of hopping up and down like children, that’s what Aussie new circus troupe Gravity & Other Myths earned from their newfound Spoleto friends with the premiere of A Simple Space.
After the show, the performers hung around the lobby of the Emmett Robinson. Strangers eagerly queued up to shake their hands, get pictures taken with them, ask them to autograph their programs.
“Have you had a chance to see any of Charleston?” one willing tour guide asked. Oh, yes. A bit.
“Do you do anything else?” someone else wondered. This is pretty much my life.
At that point, the post-show scene felt more like a family reunion than the aftermath of a theatrical performance.
And it was theatrical performance of a very high caliber even though it presented itself as unadorned street theater. Or just kids being kids.
If you grew up with in a household with a few siblings, A Simple Space might best be described as everything your mother told you not to do inside: “Stop jumping on the beds — or anything else! Don’t throw your sister around! I don’t care if they did it on TV, you can’t do that here!”
This is horsing around taken to a sublime level. And laughing. And giggling. Every chance they get, the performers look over their shoulders and smile at the audience. They must know, on some cellular level, that they are getting away with being very naughty indeed, that the kids in the audience (quite a few of those) must be taking mental snapshots of stuff they can’t wait to try. (In a word: Don’t. Seriously, kids. Don’t.)
Like siblings, the performers are very competitive amongst themselves.
Got a Rubik’s cube laying around the house? Let’s see how fast you can solve it. While balancing upside down on your head.
How about this? Grab your sister’s wrist and ankle. Spin her around the room. Oh, and toss her to your brothers.
Care for a quick game of strip jump rope? Yes, they do that. It’s hilarious.
Part of the delicious tension of the show must come from this dimly remembered childhood fear: at any moment some adult is going to walk in and stop the lunacy before somebody gets hurt. On the other hand, watching full-grown adults in the comfort of their seats leaning forward into the fun, is rewarding on an entirely different level. This is a childhood dream realized. The audience can’t help but egg them on.
The kids play with their toys — any old thing at hand. In seconds, they make balloon animals behind their backs. They pass around primary color plastic balls to the audience. As they do, they whisper, “In a minute, we want you to throw these at us. Okay?” Sure!
And when they’re done playing with their toys, they leave them scattered about all over the place, forgotten, just like any other kid might do.
Of course, it’s not all horsing around and being adorable at it. Watching co-founder Jascha Boyce balance at the top of a two-man tower and leap from her perch, is like seeing a swimmer glide through the water. Flying, swirling down into the waiting arms of her colleagues. Or being tossed from one pair of the boys to another, landing into a handstand. All of it so beautiful, it breaks your heart.
We’ve seen many acrobatic and “new circus” type shows over the years. Some very gaudy and artsy, others spine-tingling and dramatically spotlighted. These all have their pleasures. What we may have forgotten is how much fun all this can be. A Simple Space triumphs simply because it lets fun loose — all over the house.