Fuerzabruta is a big, loud, cheerful burst of images. A running man breaks through walls, giggling aerialists chase each other and women swim, in real water, over the heads of the audience.
Created by Diqui James and Gaby Kerpel in 2003, Fuerzabruta was the show that reopened London’s Roundhouse as a performance venue in 2006. It’s still a terrific showcase for the magnificent central space. The audience stands throughout the show, often showered in confetti, water and glitter. Stewards briskly part or move the crowd, making room for the treadmills, sails and carnival booms that support the show’s setpieces.
It’s very much a setpiece show. It opens in darkness, with a silhouette of a running man picked out by spotlights. He’s running on a treadmill, stuck in place – until the treadmill itself is pushed out into the audience. When walls move down the treadmill towards him, he bursts through them, sending pieces of set flying.
Less successfully, he staggers but keeps running when a gunshot rings out. It’s a gesture towards a narrative that never develops, an attempt to give the show a dark edge that it hasn’t actually earned. Other scenes go on too long: the treadmill sequence is overextended, while aerialists repeat themselves as they scamper over a sail.
Fuerzabruta works best when it comes closest to carnival. The stunts are impressive, but they also look fun. A huge reflective curtain is drawn around the circular space. Two women in harnesses run around the top of it, turning somersaults and laughing. Kerpel’s music is full of noisy drumming and Latin rhythms.
Overhead, a spotlight picks out the silhouette of a woman splashing and sliding. She’s lying in a big, flexible tank, splashing in shallow water. More dancers join her, making Busby Berkeley patterns or putting their faces into the water, smiling down at us. When one stands up and stamps, the pool of water shivers and reforms about her feet. At last the tank is lowered further, right on to the heads of the audience, so we can reach up and touch it.
Fuerzabruta has a gift for involving its audience. When asked to pass sails overhead, we all reach up to touch them. One of the new scenes pulls a billowing plastic sheet above the crowd, so that performers can run over its shifting surface. Dressed in steampunk goggles, they wriggle through holes in the sheet to pull audience members up with them.