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Acrobats push themselves to the limit in 'A Simple Space'

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Gravity and Myths at Stockbridge Theatre in Derry

Gravity and Other Myths, an Australia acrobatic troupe, will twist, tumble and balance their way onto the Stockbridge Theatre stage at Pinkerton Academy in Derry Friday night.

DERRY — When people think of acrobat shows, they tend to think first of Cirque du Soleil; a colorful, flashy visual feast with large installations, clowns and abstract storytelling.

Gravity and Other Myths, a troupe of acrobats from Australia performing at the Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy at 7 p.m. Friday, decided to take a very different approach, according to co-founder Jacob Randell.

“What we’ve done is taken that stuff away,” Randell said.

This way, he said, the audience feels more like they’re a part of the show, which consists of a stark stage with two padded mats and a lighting pole on each side.

“We look at our audience in the eyeball. They’re only a meter away,” Randell said. “I think that’s been a part of our success — people really enjoying that connection.”

'A Simple Space' at Stockbridge Theatre

Gravity and Other Myths erases elements that create a dividing line between audiences and performers, such as distracting set designs or barriers. Instead, acrobats in “A Simple Space” draw the audience into the performance as if they’re watching the troupe practicing in their own studios.

Acrobats push themselves to the limit in the production, which is titled “A Simple Space” and consists of seven acrobats and one musician, Randall said.

Stripping away the artifice of other circus-like shows gives audiences almost a voyeuristic peek into what it’s like in a performer’s training studio.

In that spirit, there are improvisations and competitions among the performers during the show, and sometimes they make mistakes and pick themselves back up to try again.

“We’re not these aliens from a different planet. We’re just people, and we fall,” Randell said.

It’s that vulnerability — seeing the performers struggle, strain and sweat — that gets the audience emotionally invested, Randell said.

In one particular challenge, one performer will end up nearly naked (though sufficiently concealed for a family-friendly audience), Randell said.

“It is quite exhilarating being naked on stage for the first time. I’ll say that much,” Randell said.

There are no underlying messages or narrative through-lines, he said. Still, each act has a set of clear rules that are defined early on.

The group was founded by a “bunch of mates” in an after-school program in Adelaide, Australia. Randell said the founding members left their engineering studies, much to their parents’ initial dismay, to start the show. The troupe’s first show was called “Freefall,” which they performed for about 10 years. “A Simple Space” started in 2013 and morphed over the first three or four years into what it is now. Randell said the performers celebrated their 500th performance of that show last year. Their shows also include

In the past 10 years, the acrobats have toured Europe, North America, some parts of South America and Zimbabwe in Africa. The troupe also has the shows “Backbone” and “Out of Chaos.”