Monday, February 23, 2009


It begins when a platform is rolled into the center of the crowd, forcing the audience to make space. A man in a suit, who could be an office worker, is going against the flow on a moving walkway. This is the defining image of "Fuerzabruta": the ordinary man facing life's daily challenges, pushing himself forward.

It's an image we see repeatedly through the performance with a number of variations. Twice he is shot yet returns to his feet like some angelic survivor, blood dripping from his shirt. Sometimes he walks past people on this imaginary sidewalk -- each of them dropping like statues when they reach the end of the platform. Other times he is confronted by a wall of cardboard, a blast of wind or a haze of rain and still he soldiers on, casting debris into the audience as he goes.

At one point, attention is directed suddenly to a place on the ceiling where a man appears to hang unaided from the underside of a small acrylic pool of water. Above him is a writhing swimmer whose every movement he mirrors as if she were magnetic.

Already, by looking skywards, we're starting to lose our sense of balance and orientation. When a huge curtain of silver wraps itself around the room and two acrobats on ropes chase each other across the walls of the tent, it even becomes hard to tell up from down. We are weightless in the darkened space, laughing in the face of Newton's laws even as we're sprayed with water or set upon by actors smashing powdery Styrofoam blocks over our heads.

In effect, the director and his troupe present a series of images of obstacles and liberation, complemented by sequences of sheer sensuality, such as when a massive curtain flaps across the space swinging closer to our outstretched arms with each movement. Most stunning of all, in a feat of technical daring, a full-size swimming pool is floated over our heads, its transparent base allowing the diving dancers to be seen as they create mesmerizing ripple effects in the water. Their supple, semi-naked bodies add a sexual fricton to the images of freedom as they glide across the surface, unbound and unrestrained.

I would need too much good poetry to be able to describe all the extraordinary things that happen in Fuerzabruta, especially when we discover ourselves beneath the swirling tides of an enormous body of water descending until it is only inches above our heads. Sliding in the waves of the water are aquatic beings staring at us, trying to understand us, as we try to understand them. The sole thread linking the show's many disparate segments, the resilience of the human spirit in the face of outright catastrophe, is so light that it's all but blown away by the wind machines that blast several thousand pieces of tissue-paper confetti through the audience at key points AND perhaps the BEST PART...getting to dance in the water afterwards!?!!

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being"

~Oscar Wilde

No comments: