BLACKNESS falls around a hushed and expectant audience in London’s Roundhouse. Suddenly a thundering bass drum beat strikes a chord and light flashes on performers dotted around the circular venue, a lightning quick movement that causes heads to crane and spin around.
Over the course of the next 75 minutes during Fuerzabruta, an Argentinian-founded “multi-sensory spectacular”, acrobats will swing overhead, a Kafka-esque suited figure will run to stand still on a travelator, an underwater world will be suspended within touching distance of the crowd, and a maniacally grinning actor will swing from a gigantic, rotating crane.
The magnificent set pieces are immersive, stimulating and spectacular, combining elements of circus and theatre to create a hypnotic and oft-erotically charged world that is at turns aquatic and aeronautical, driven by massive fans pumping out air, suspending the actors - and the audience’s belief along with it - in mid-air.
All of this is accompanied by a thumping, tribal rhythm, a nightclub beat interspersed with spiritual, hippie-influenced vibes, and shouts and squeals of delight by the troupe swinging overhead.
This is challenging, thought provoking theatre, the kind of thing that cities of culture ought to be about - and it is safe to say Limerick, or even Ireland, has never seen a show like it.
The “first big international show” of City of Culture, which opens in the newly named Culture Factory in March, will take over the former Dell factory in Castletroy, a massive 350,000 square foot industrial unit that has lain idle for some years.
The show, currently coming to the end of a three month, sold-out run in London’s Roundhouse, will run from March 13-22 as the next of the key flagship events for the year.
The cost of bringing the show to Limerick - and retro-fitting the venue - will run to €400,000, but the economic impact of that investment will be felt far beyond the year, with several shows to run in the massive space, and the potential for the establishment of a 4,000 capacity venue for the region a welcome knock-on effect.
City of Culture will seek to shift 13,000 tickets for Fuerzabruta - named after the company who founded it in 2005 and which was first performed in Buenos Aires - over the coming weeks.
In an attempt to explain what the show is about, company manager Mariana Mele elegantly described it as swirling “overhead, along, on your back - everywhere”.
It will take over a section of the building known as the High Bay, which features 15m high ceilings and 70,000 square feet of space in which to perform.
She explained that Fuerzabruta - in its essence a standing show containing some scenes of mild nudity and violence with strobe lighting and loud music - was “a different kind of theatre”.
“I think that instead of expecting, people have to come and celebrate with us,” she said. “We don’t want to be intellectuals, we want to mix primitive theatre with new technologies so they are part of the show.
“Each show is going to change depending on the audience we have, so they just need to come to celebrate and to live the experience.”
Mike Fitzpatrick, interim CEO of City of Culture who saw the show in London at the weekend, said it was “really unusual”.
“It is not story telling, it is a series of really exciting things, there is a feel good factor, no doubt it,” he explained.
“It certainly is more about spectacle than narrative. It isn’t about a story, it is more about a series of spectacular events one after the after. That surprised me a little bit, I wasn’t expecting it to be totally about the ‘spectacular’.
“The show is done as a slightly different version in each place, and will be different in Limerick. I am looking forward to that. We certainly have a larger space, but it will be managed so that the audience is grouped in a certain way.”
Audience interaction is key to the show, with the crowd shunted around as Fuerzabruta is performed around them, within and above.
“It is really nice to see the crowd involvement,” explained Mike. “The participants seem to really go for it, I loved the sounds of it, there was a great pulse to it and it will be interesting to see how that sound works in a new venue, and that is part of the challenge of putting it together.
“For a new venue it will be an interesting evening. It is the ideal show to launch the new venue - it is very unusual, people would certainly never have seen it before here and that is what City of Culture is about.”
Fuerzabruta opens on March 13. See Limerick City of Culture for full details.