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Adelaide Festival

Festival review: The Pulse

Adelaide Festival

At the throbbing heart of The Pulse  is the beauty of endless renewal, depicted as bodies and voices unite, retreat and reconnect in a monumental display of synchronicity and skill.

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The Pulse, the latest production from Adelaide’s Gravity & Other Myths, is a show born of catastrophe.

Like every other touring arts company, the group suffered the complete collapse of their performance schedule when the arrival of the pandemic caused all travel to halt early in 2020. What to do? In the months that followed, they came together to conceive a work that aims to show “how we as people, communities or clusters of particles, respond to the subtle or significant changes that are continually happening around us”.

The performers, with director Darcy Grant, designer Geoff Cobham and composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix (the creative team responsible for the company’s Helpmann-award-winning  Out of Chaos), have created a work that is thrilling and visually compelling.

On the bare stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, acrobatic performers (dressed simply in white and grey) and a choir (in black) meet and begin to connect as movement and song repeats and layers, bodies rising and falling while bathed in shafts of light, vibrant colours, soft washes and shadows. There is frenetic energy interspersed with more subdued strength and stillness – a fluid match between movement, song and chant, each scene highlighted by changes in lighting and a soundscape that melds electronica with snatches of vocal samples.

The 30 acrobats – circling, pacing and spinning as they form complex human geometry and fling themselves into impossible positions – interact with the 30 singers who are also constantly on the move. Stretching and catching, performers stack themselves one on top of another to form towers that merge into even larger constructions.

There are spontaneous gasps and cries from audience members unable to muffle their responses

A girl is suspended high above the group, positioned head down before being dropped and then saved just before reaching the floor. Long white cords drop from the stage ceiling and from the dress circle. They are lashed together and later reconfigured to create giant cat’s-cradle webs that capture the light and add structure to the space behind and between the performers.

Since forming in 2009, Gravity & Other Myths has steadily and spectacularly achieved success both locally and abroad. Anyone who witnessed their first show,  A Simple Space, would have realised they were destined for big things. The company has won multiple awards and toured internationally with their ensemble works, gathering fans across the globe for a high-energy blend of acrobatics, physical theatre and circus skills that is jaw dropping in its bravery and technical perfection.

The group’s partnership with Aurora for The Pulse  is inspired and results in a theatrical experience that induces plenty of goosebump moments.

Aurora, directed by Christie Anderson, is the senior vocal ensemble of the South Australian youth choir Young Adelaide Voices. The choir is no stranger to boundary-pushing works, with a diverse performance record that includes former Adelaide Festival productions, sharing the stage with the Rolling Stones and appearing as guest artists at the Desert Song Festival in Alice Springs. Aurora’s commitment to performing contemporary Australian music means they’re a perfect match for The Pulse.

This all-Australian production marries brute strength with intricate choreography and singing that at times elevates the work to the sublime. The solo and group sequences, at times wild and loose, at other times restrained and tightly controlled, sometimes evoke a sense of ritual.

From the show’s beginning until the standing ovation at the end of the performance, there are spontaneous gasps and cries from audience members unable to muffle their responses. “I feel like they’re gonna do something dangerous.” This vocal snippet comes in the latter part of The Pulse  but it perfectly describes what we’ve all been thinking since the start, as soaring bodies fly through the air, relying completely on each other to avoid wrong moves that could very likely result in serious injury or worse.

It’s nail-biting stuff delivered with elegance and it’s a joy to experience.

The Pulse  is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre as part of the 2021 Adelaide Festival until March 3.

Read more Adelaide Festival stories and reviews  here.



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