Fuerza Bruta: that could be me up there

This part aerial spectacle, part club night, is designed to be accessible to everyone. What happens when a journalist joins in?

The jewel of The Limerick National City of Culture, Fuerza Bruta will be premiered tonight at the Culture Factory, a re-imagining of the former Dell factory space. Video: Sean Curtin

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 17:09

The confetti gets everywhere. It is still strewn around the floor of London’s Roundhouse, in white and silver shreds, from the previous night’s show when the performers of Fuerza Bruta conduct acrobatic warm-ups. Some of them, like the elfin Brooke Miyasaki, stretch out their limbs methodically with the assistance of foam rollers, while others drill out ominous percussion exercises on huge drums. As she moves briskly around the scene, the company manager, Mariana Mele, watches stage hands sweep a creditable amount of confetti offstage: “We never get rid of it all.”

For days after my experience with Fuerza Bruta, a sensational aerial theatre show from Argentina, I find this confetti everywhere: in my shoes, in my wallet, in the hair of colleagues. I begin to wonder if I might have inhaled some, and research “glitter lung”, an alleged occupational hazard of burlesque performers.

But right now I have other worries. “This is Peter,” says Mele, introducing me to various technical personnel and highly-trained performers. “He is going up in the bubble.” Everyone, apart from me, seems remarkably calm about this.

Fuerza Bruta , which comes to the Culture Factory as part of Limerick City of Culture next week, is essentially what would happen if you introduced bungee cords, stunt work, aerial aquaplaning and the eroticism of a Levi’s commercial to a warehouse rave for beautiful people. It also thrives on an inclusive spirit; an intimation that the audience can get in on the act. In the Roundhouse it is an immersive experience. The audience enters an empty circular space, huddling in the centre in search of a good view. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, it turns out – mainly because there are no seats. Almost everything happens over your head.

Music loosely inspired by Argentinean folk, but mostly concerned with electronic textures and fractured beats, envelops the space and initiates a breathtaking sequence of set-pieces: a cluster of female bodies swings overhead like a dizzying pendulum; a man in an immaculate white suit rolls into the space on an enormous treadmill and begins running, crashing through impediments, including pedestrians, plastic furniture, a huge wall, a vertiginous staircase and a gunshot to the stomach. The audience move with this tumbling, dreamlike narrative, following displays of physical grace and eruptive force. In the best of these, transparent pools of water are lowered from above where female performers patter and dive, the ripples and light creating artful images. It descends astonishingly close to us, and the playfulness turns violent, as bodies cavort and slam, touching us through the Perspex.

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