Fuerza Bruta

6:16 pm in Featured, Review by EVNT

Fuerza Bruta is a Brazilian postmodern theatre / circus troupe that has been plying its trade since its first show in Buenos Aires in 2005.  It has an energetic, immersive style that stages the show in the heart of the audience and includes them in elements of a dystopian dream narrative. First performing in London in 2006, the company returned this January to Camden’s Roundhouse for a 4 week run of the spectacular show.

Brute force is the English translation of their name and that’s exactly how it is from the off. Having been gently shepherded into a dark enclosure, curtained off from the rest of the huge space, the dim lighting allowed us only to take in the melee of people that swirled around us, waiting for something to happen. With a burst of light and pounding drums the show opened and we seemed thrown into a Latin rendition of Sergeant Pepper as a red-jacketed samba band began to sing at us. The noise and colour overwhelmed the senses and gave birth to the goonish grin that split my face for the next 60 minutes.

As the music ebbed the ever present team of people-movers emerged and made a gap in the crowd to allow a large treadmill to be wheeled slowly through. Atop the machine strode a white suited man, walking quickly as the sound peaked and flowed and the assembly was pushed further into the middle of the space. What happened in the next 15 minutes or so was anyone’s guess as the protagonist ran on the mill, was shot, revived, ran through boxes, was rained on,  ran up a flight of steps and leapt off, sat at a cafe that fell off the platform, ran through more boxes, was shot and revived again and all with a breathless soundtrack and intensity that kept the audience rapt. You can’t tell what happened? Nor can I, but wow was it engrossing.

As we were moved again silver curtains replaced black and two dancers ran out onto the shimmering red-green surface, each footstep creating a kaleidoscopic wave as they pirouetted and gamboled. Did I mention they were suspended from the ceiling? Another assault on the senses as they chased one another from left to right and back and again before they too were shrouded in darkness.

We were re-positioned again and looked up to see swimming pools suspended from the ceiling, each one holding a lithe form, diving across the inch of water on the translucent bottom. The pools lowered and a forest of hands reached up to touch the underside, the performers peering through the bottom and reaching out to clasp the hands of their fellow performers. Then they too were gone, an inflatable dome appearing over our heads as the troupe, dressed as biplanes, swarmed about it on a cushion of air. Holes opened and people were pulled up through to cavort some more. Down came the dome, hand over hand we passed it back into storage and it was replaced by a stage, a DJ and finally a monster- which looked like something from ‘One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing‘- with more performers strapped on to it, dancing and singing and shouting and running about among the crowd and smashing boxes over their heads. Exhausted? Lost? Confused? I was, and amazed and delighted too. The show was over.

Although audience participation was minor – the action happened in, about and among us – it was a show to be seen, not so much participate in, even at such close range. All in all this could be recommended to anybody, it has a mild adult theme but not too raunchy (maybe the 9pm show is more so, I’m not sure of the theatre watershed…) and it wouldn’t deter the overly shy from getting involved. Enjoy it for the theatre, the carnival and the circus, but most of all enjoy the hour of unbridled pleasure of a show which takes complete charge of your eyes and ears and leaves you with a joyful buzz and a sense of not knowing quite what just happened.

Nicholas Butlin