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What’s it really like to run away with the circus?

Meet Gravity & Other Myths’ acrobat Jascha Boyce and contemporary circus director Darcy Grant

Oscar Godsell

Alot of dreaming, a lot of practice, and the occasional trip to a sex shop. That’s what life is like when you run away with the circus, according to acrobat Jascha Boyce and circus director Darcy Grant. They’re two leading members of the award-winning Australian contemporary circus, Gravity & Other Myths – who are premiering their most ambitious show to date, The Mirror, at the Sydney Opera House this February.

They might not be the first things you think of when you imagine running away with the circus, but Gravity & Other Myths like to do things a little differently. 

The Adelaide-based company’s newest show offers “a sophisticated circus experience, but one that’s heaps of fun… and a little bit sexy,” Darcy Grant says. The Mirror offers a fresh take on what ‘sexy’ is by exploring the lengths we go to in order to appeal to others – and the fact that our attempts at being sexy are often quite hilarious. 

“We think the things people do in pursuit of sexiness are pretty funny. One task given to the team to prepare for the show was to go to a sex shop and buy some clothing, any kind of clothing… because someone finds those clothes sexy. And then we all put them on and had a great laugh about what they were.”

But when they’re not scouring sex shop aisles for quirky dress-ups, they’re training tirelessly or touring around the world.

“When we’re rehearsing a show, we’ll be in a space together for pretty much the whole day – from 10am to 5pm,” Jascha says. “At the moment, we spend three to four hours in the morning training together, just physical skills. And then in the afternoon session, we spend another three to four hours working specifically on the scenes that are in the show.”

The scenes in the show she’s referring to are some of the circus company’s most daring yet. So challenging, in fact, that they make director Darcy Grant nervous. “I don’t really get used to it even as a former acrobat. My nerves are pretty shattered… There’s one trick where two people are being held on human platforms and they basically switch positions while somersaulting over each other. There is only a slither of clearance between them midair. That always gets the heart racing a bit.”

While dramatic falls and on-stage mishaps do occur, they are fortunately rare. Circus is surprisingly much safer than you might expect, Jascha explains. “It’s less dangerous and much more predictable than playing a sport because we train one particular movement so many times.”

But, of course, these jaw-dropping movements are being performed by some extremely talented individuals. Along with Darcy Grant and Jascha Boyce, almost all of the show’s performers began their acrobatic careers as children. 

Pretty much every child has dreamt, at some point, of one day waking up and running away with a circus – joining a misfit band of fire breathers, tightrope walkers and contortionists. But for Darcy Grant, that dream was pretty close to reality. 

“My parents said, this is the first adult question we’re going to ask you: would you like to run away and join the circus?... and we did.”

He was just twelve when his family left Far North Queensland for Albury Wodonga to join the Flying Fruit Fly Circus.

It was a similar story for Boyce, whose parents encouraged her to do something different to playing sports or doing ballet. “I started when I was four and just never really left. And I think it was kind of a similar story for a lot of my co-founders.”

The troupe is really a vanguard of children’s circus graduates, some of whom have been performing together for over 15 years. The Mirror itself has been the labour of four years of work, which began during the COVID lockdowns. The hiatus from live performance, Grant says, was a unique opportunity to create new shows and practise more than ever. 

“You know the biggest commodity in acrobatics – the hardest thing to find – is time and space. And COVID gave us two years to really be together and train full time. So there’s been a real level up in the last two or three years in terms of skills.” 

It’s that process of being together in the same space that leads to the gravity-defying stunts performed in the show. Well, that and keeping up with the latest viral tricks on YouTube, adds Grant.

“Often, it’s just all of us getting into a room and playing together. It’s a lot of experimentation as a team,” Jascha explains. One acrobat shares a new trick they found on the internet, then another suggests some extra little skill – maybe something from breakdance or parkour – and all of a sudden you have curiously titled stunts like ‘Somersault Crossover’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

The ‘Bird on the Wire’ is a new trick for the company. Jascha is the bird and the wire is two people standing one on top of the other. Jascha is positioned next to the two-person human beanpole and is thrown from her legs by four acrobats to perch perfectly atop her colleagues, forming a three-high tower.

She was practising the tower just before our interview. “We stack three people on top of each other, I’m right at the top, and we hold it for as long as we possibly can – anywhere between two minutes, and sometimes five minutes.”

The feeling of nailing a trick is something Jascha lives for. “It really does feel like an addiction at times because you desperately want to make the trick work. It can get to the point where you just want to train over and over and over again.” Being able to celebrate when they land a trick on stage, under lights, with nerves and adrenaline is the ultimate goal. “It’s really an amazing thing to be able to achieve as a team.”

The team in The Mirror are the highest-skilled acrobats in the country if you ask Darcy Grant. “They have some really insane skills. And you’ll get to see it all wrapped up with a composer and a designer who are at the absolute top of their game right now. It’s a pretty nice package in every way,” he says.

Don’t miss your chance to step up to The Mirror and come face-to-face with some of the best Australian acrobats perform at the Sydney Opera House. The epic season is on at the Drama Theatre from 9 February to 5 March.

Find more about Theatre at the Opera House