Force of nature
This article is from 2007.
With its mix of acrobatics, dance, theatre and club, Fuerzabruta is impossible to define. Claire Prentice visits South America for a sneak preview.
The DJ whacks up the volume on the decks and suddenly the whole audience erupts. Fifteen hundred people jump in the air in time to the throbbing dance music. Red, pink and purple lights flash over the sweaty clubbers who shriek as water jets down on them from sprinklers overhead. But this isn’t a club. It’s a theatrical show.
Specifically it’s a jaw-dropping blend of aerial acrobatics, cutting edge performance, dance and club night. Fuerzabruta means ‘brute force’, and this sexy, playful and daring Argentinean production is living up to its name. An assault on the senses, it’s unlike anything else you will encounter this summer.
We are in a huge tent in a field on the outskirts of Bogota, the Colombian capital, where Fuerzabruta has been playing to full houses for the past fortnight. It is quite an achievement in a country more than 40 years into a civil war.
A voice comes over the tannoy: ‘When you touch the scenography please do it softly with the palm of your hands.’
‘I want the audience to get involved. I want them to touch the props and the actors,’ says Diqui James, Fuerzabruta’s artistic director and previously co-founder of the legendary Argentinean company De La Guarda which toured the globe in the 1990s with Villa Villa, playing to more than four million spectators.
‘Fuerzabruta has no narrative,’ says James. ‘I don’t want to put a story on it. It is up to everyone who comes to see it to judge it for themselves and to enjoy it on their own terms.’
A white light flashes down on a man in a crumpled suit and tie who starts running on a treadmill. A series of obstacles are thrown in his path but he keeps running, faster and faster, as if his life depended on it. It is the first in a series of stunning images in the 90 minute show, which James has reworked for Edinburgh.
Despite the absence of dialogue, the audience is swept along by the action and Gaby Kerpel’s clubby, atmospheric score, into a mesmerising dream world.
A man and a woman cling, like the survivors of a shipwreck, onto a huge silver ship’s sail as it spins round and round; two sprites run and somersault through the billowing clouds; a young couple spin in circles on opposites sides of a giant, water-filled petri dish.
Another scene was inspired by the murga, a folk dance which immigrants brought with them to the Boca, the colourful working class district of Buenos Aires famed for its football team.
The acrobatic moves look physically punishing and, to prevent injury, the young 12-strong cast swap roles for every performance.
A giant metallic sheet unfurls over our heads, rising and falling like an enormous wave. Conforming to James’ desire to appeal to the child in us all, everyone jumps in the air to touch it.
‘It appeals to a very diverse group of people and I like that very much,’ he says. ‘So often theatre is for people that read, intellectuals. I don’t want that. I enjoy carnival and street theatre – everyone having fun together in the street, rich and poor, intellectuals and ordinary people, kids and grandparents. There is nothing in this piece to understand. If you’ve never read a book in your life you can enjoy it.
‘For a lot of people, this is the first time they come to the theatre. Young people don’t go to the theatre. They think it is boring. Maybe they are right. But they come to Fuerzabruta.’
It is a fitting tribute to a labour of love which took the artistic director and a hand-picked team of his most trusted collaborators four years to develop. For one key scene, James wanted to construct a giant water tank from an extremely tough yet thin, pliable polyester film.
‘I was working on making this pool for more than one year with a lot of people and trying to convince them that it was going to be great,’ recalls James. ‘The day the technical team brought the pool in and I saw it for the first time was one of the happiest days of my life. It was so beautiful.’
It might have been a long time coming, but the pool provides an image which will stay with audiences long after the end of the show.
The water-filled tank is gradually lowered from the ceiling and bathed in a shifting spectrum of pink, purple, red, green and blue light.
Above us a group of sirens emit wild shrieks as they slide, leap and splash through the water just inches from our heads. One man in the audience reaches up to stroke the bottom of one of the beautiful young girls as she slides across the surface. She stops and pulls a face at him before resuming her game.
As they carry on cavorting, the mood shifts from innocence to animal abandon.
‘The show really changes from one day to the next, according to the audience and depending on which country we are in,’ says James. ‘You need big audiences for a show like this to work. That is a big pressure. Thankfully it has always worked wherever we have taken it so far,’ he adds. ‘And when it works that is a big relief. Actually it feels absolutely fantastic.’
At £25 a ticket it’s not cheap but it promises to be one of the most exhilarating nights out on the Fringe.
Fuerzabruta, The Black Tent, Ocean Terminal, 0870 169 0100, 7 Aug–1 Sep (not 13, 20, 28), times vary, £25 (£17.50). Previews 4 & 5 Aug, £25 (£17.50).