It was only a matter of time before freerunning and parkour, already picked up from the streets by Hollywood film directors and advertising moguls, filtered down into theatres.
Free Run is the first attempt to put the art form – a kind of fast-paced and graceful concrete acrobatics which uses the cityscape as set and involves much leaping off rooftops and bouncing off walls – on stage. Not an easy task but the irrepressible 3RUN, a muscle-bound troupe whose flips, spins and vaults have see them break 15 world records and notch up 29 million hits on YouTube, are probably the best men for the job.
For their theatrical debut, a 360 degree performance specially conceived for the Underbelly’s giant purple cow venue, 3RUN have been styled as a kind of bouncing boyband, complete with thumping urban soundtrack, expensive slow-mo video projections and a wardrobe of jeans, hoodies and vests. The tricks are pretty spectacular, given that their stage – usually tower blocks and multi-storey car-parks – has been reduced to a conventional, rather small theatrical space featuring iron railings, slanted walls and a few towers of varying heights. They leap and spin off these basic props like a family of frogs, occasionally stopping time and gravity to hang horizontally from the railings. In between times, there are capoiera and cage-fighting routines and a thrilling, leg-whirling martial arts bout.
The problem is, there’s only half a show here. The high-octane action takes up about 30 minutes, the rest is portentous scene-setting and pointless storytelling. The performers look hemmed-in by these interim scenes, desperate, you feel, to break out of the theatrical concept and hit the streets again. They end with a thrilling 10-minute encore during which the pace does not let up for a second. It makes you wish they’d done it all the way through.
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