The Roundhouse in Camden, north London, officially reopened last night (Monday 5 June 2006) after a two-year, £29.8 million refurbishment with Fuerzabruta, the latest show from the Argentinian founders of De La Guarda, which had a sell-out 11-month run at the venue in 1999/2000 (See News, 1 Feb 2006).
Running in the Roundhouse’s main space until 30 July 2006, Fuerzabruta (meaning “brute force”) features 12 performers hurtling through a 65-minute physical theatre show at breakneck speed, using every elemental force available, played out against a soundtrack of club beats and world music. The show involves spectacular acrobatics, combined with clever lighting and illusions to create a visual feast.
While overnight critics couldn’t help but be impressed with the jaw-dropping spectacle, which they agreed was a real achievement and theatrical treat, some expressed disappointment that Fuerzabruta didn’t stretch beyond visual impact.
Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com - In his five-star rave, Coveney hailed the show as “an event of such staggering non-complexity and physical beauty that you are reduced to a state of gibbering wonder and relief when it’s all over – after just 70 minutes... all 12 performers are somehow trapped in space while liberated in expression. Thus a theatrical event assumes the significance of the human condition.... The greatest theatre is always a celebration of the audience. We get fleeting glimpses of this phenomenon from night to night, but rarely, as we do here, a full-on manifesto of why people should gather together in the pleasures of spectacle and common humanity.” He declared: “Rough, raw, disturbing and unforgettable, Fuerzabruta is the perfect statement of intent in a reborn venue which is such a pleasure to contemplate.”
Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard - Curtis described the show as “a sensual and sensory onslaught, a series of ravishing images that barge their way into the milling audience accompanied by hardcore trance music and a fine spray of mist and rubble. What's it about? It's about 60 minutes of unalloyed pleasure. The alternate-visions of bliss and alienation peddled by Fuerzabruta are, admittedly, simple to the point of banality. It's the scope and flair of their execution that delights, and the democratic nature of the experience… Between set-pieces, the cast stamp, shout, smash things and shove through the crowd. It's exhilarating, if a bit laden with posturing and attitude… It's very sexy, as well as an incredible piece of engineering. And that's it. Fuerzabruta has nothing to declare beyond the sheer delight in its own visual and spatial inventiveness. It's straightforward, airy, exuberant. The clubby vibe created by director Diqui James and composer Gaby Kerpel is in keeping with the Roundhouse's new stated aim of reaching out to the young, but this is a show anyone tolerant of strobe lights and damp can enjoy. A fitting reopening party, then, for a venerable and much-loved building where unpredictability was all you could ever be sure of.”
Michael Billington in the Guardian - “I normally resist theatre of pure sensation. But the Argentinian performance group, De Le Guarda, gave the old Roundhouse one of its biggest hits with Villa Villa. And now the company's co-founder Diqui James is back in the handsomely refurbished building with a new show that leaves you dazzled by its physical bravura and technical skill… There is no pretence that this is a statement about the human condition: what we admire is the performers' audacity and the ingenuity of the stage management. To put it simply, this is the art of the circus and the fairground raised to the highest level: a series of phantasmagoric stunts celebrating acrobatic daring… the show wins you over by its exuberant skill.”
Sam Marlowe in The Times - “Fuerzabruta, directed by Diqui James, signals a suitably dynamic rebirth (for the Roundhouse). The show begins by conjuring a tingling sense of expectation and possibility… However, truly, viscerally involving moments are scarce. The show’s inventiveness and daring impress, yet, significantly, its most affecting sequence is also one of its simplest. A vast, undulating metallic sheet unfurls over the audience; rising and crashing down like an enormous wave, it has a thrilling, elemental power. The lack of real emotional guts means that, much as I admire Fuerzabruta’s impressionistic beauty, I can’t quite fall in love with it. But it’s a hell of a one-night stand.”
- by Caroline Ansdell