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Rough, raw, disturbing and unforgettable was my verdict on this head-banging Argentinian spectacular when it christened the re-built, re-opened Roundhouse six years ago. And here they are again, rough and raw all over again, and nearly just as disturbing.
But unforgettable? My information is that this sort of thing is fairly routine at rock concerts these days, and a strange sense of time-warp now filters through the sensual blitzkrieg of pulsating drumming, Latin caterwauling, rushing aerialists, and embryonic water creatures.
Fuerzabruta – "brute force" – is the very opposite of Cirque du Soleil, for which some thanks, the sort of wild barbaric alternative circus blast that amounts to... what, exactly? A man in a white suit runs through brick (polystyrene) walls, gets shot in the chest (it was the back before), keeps running, disappears.
A great tin foil disc rises into the roof and, on either side, another man and a woman are seen treading water in the horizontal plane, hair flying, gestures desperate. And when the plastic roof descends on the standing audience like a large circular condom, membrane or trampoline, we see oyster-like crustacean outlines of human figures swimming urgently in their slime and water tanks.
It's not the sort of performance you can appreciate by standing on the periphery. It's an all-or-nothing experience, fully immersive and participatory; it's an outing, an event, a vision of Dante's inferno, a rampant metaphor of the futility of all human endeavour and existence.
When it first opened,
Fuerzabruta seemed like a sequel to its own Argentinian predecessor, De La Guarda, which stormed into the old Roundhouse in 2001. And it also seemed like a continuation of the great Roundhouse tradition of revolutionary hippie epics ranging from the Living Theatre to Ariane Mnouchkine's 1789.
For some audiences, it must still seem like that, especially if you have downed a gallon of margaritas or drifted along Camden High Road on a cloud of happy dust. It's an escape into a world of noise, excess and unadulterated human pleasure.
But it's also quaintly old-fashioned in feeling free to be about absolutely nothing at all, sheer carnival, sheer sensual delight. For if
Fuezabruta does amount to anything at all, it is to a celebration of the human spirit against all the odds. - by Michael Coveney