“The Mirror” by Gravity and Other Myths shows the power (and beauty) of human strength

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      I’m not usually one to talk during live arts performances, but I caught myself saying, “Oh my God” out loud multiple times while watching The Mirror.

      I couldn’t help it—the things these people could do with their bodies was certifiably bananas.

      Australian contemporary circus troupe Gravity and Other Myths opened its run of The Mirror at the Vancouver Playhouse last night, the packed house feeling instantly enchanted by its tricks (as evidenced by the steady stream of laughs and applause).

      Beginning with a closed curtain surrounding an old-school boombox, the show flipped between theatrical moments (a woman with a mic singing mash-ups of popular songs was a recurring feature) and truly magnetic feats of human strength.

      The Mirror was at its best during the latter: sections of the 75-minute show (with no intermission—bless) when the acrobats flowed through various stints like water, as if a tide was breathing them in and out of each other. It is incredible what the human body is capable of, whether it be four people standing on each other’s shoulders like a tower, or a throne made out entirely of human limbs, on which an entire person could perch. Watching the artists was mesmerizing, with parts of the choreography feeling like a Rube Goldberg machine: a foot placed on another person’s back morphing into a chain reaction of gorgeous, surprising lines. Not just straight cirque, either, there were elements of contemporary dance that were worthy of any big-deal theatre.

      Photo by Denis Koone.

      There were also welcomed moments of humour interspersed throughout the show, including a few scenes where the performers pretended to be in rehearsal, going through the choreography and chatting happily to each other before doing the tricks for real. I’d say, though, that overall there weren’t enough of these elements of reprieve.

      The show suffered from a lack of pacing, mostly due to a consistently downbeat tempo paired with the aforementioned singing (lyrics sampling everything from “Oops!... I Did It Again” by Britney Spears to “I’m Just Ken” from the Barbie movie). I found it hard to stay emerged in those moments—the consistent droning, while I’m sure a very intentional choice, left me feeling a bit flat.

      Interesting props were used, including a selfie stick broadcasting a live stream onto a door-like screen, and an LED light wall. Interesting, sure, but honestly, not needed—I would have been just as impressed by the performers without all that stuff.

      Billed as an exploration of “the meaning of true connection,” The Mirror seemed to be a meditation on our image-obsessed culture, though I found myself more often than not wondering what exactly was going on, and what I was supposed to be taking away from it all.

      My dad, who came to the show with me, suggested an alternative intellectual route: maybe it was just a series of impressive, beautiful tricks. Maybe it didn’t have to mean more than that.

      I’m not sure I’m convinced, because the props and the song choices and the costumes all felt extremely specific. But as for what the message was supposed to be, I’m still guessing. Maybe, though, that’s exactly the point.

      “The Mirror” is on at the Vancouver Playhouse until January 27.