Fuerzabruta (Brute Force) has been touring its acrobatic, surreal spectacular for nearly ten years now, which is proof of its enormous popularity. It reopened the much-revamped steam engine shed in 2006 and now it’s back and playing to packed houses. So why am I so grudging about it?

In the dark, drumming starts. Red backlighting for the eight drummers, then full lights as they scream rhythmic chants. Out of the high dome of the roof drop five actors on one rope, collectively looking like an enormous spider. The agonised rictus on each face, the contortion of the bodies, suggests some Goyaesque nightmare. Trapped in their physicality, tossed by enormous outside forces, the title, I thought, made sense.

A man is walking, then running against a conveyor belt. He is shot. He gets up and walks again, a barrage of furniture impeding him, others walking in the opposite direction. Suddenly a giant wall of cardboard boxes looms up, almost before we see it. He bursts through it. Brute force again.

But then we have two enormous shallow pools suspended over the audience; three women in each propelling themselves across like so many naiads, making exquisite patterns over her heads through the transparent pool floors. This is ethereally beautifully, and not a trace of force in sight..

The images are stunning and on at least three occasions impeccably Wow-able. It’s a show which fills the cathedral-like Roundhouse very imaginatively. But the effects are thrown together with little sense of logic, theme or dramatic sequence. Given that we are herded none-too-gently around the space in crushed and crushing groups (note, you really must leave bags and coats outside), the law of diminishing returns kicks in rather quickly. “OK, I’ve seen that. Now show me something else.”

Where we end up is in a party. A DJ, techno-funk, more drumming, water sprays, more cardboard boxes, confetti everywhere. Strobes and pseudo-strobes. Everyone encouraged to dance, clap and have a good time. The kind of rave we went to in the late 80s and early 90s, which was much improved by a couple of Es. This is a curiously old-fashioned show and not just in its music and over-reliance on strobe, the last refuge of the visually desperate. The mechanics needed to create the images seem slow, the transitions lumbering; like trying to play Grand Theft Auto on an Atari.

Ultimately, despite any suggestions from the title, the show has absolutely nothing to say. No-one can deny the athleticism or prowess of the performers, but this kind of phsyical semi-circus spectacular has moved on technically. At these prices we have a right to more.

Reviews by Peter Scott-Presland

Charing Cross Theatre

Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris

★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Return of the Soldier

★★★
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Eye of a Needle

★★★★
Rosemary Branch Theatre

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★★★
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★★★★

Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

Due to phenomenal demand, the fastest-selling show in Roundhouse history, Fuerzabruta, returns for 100 performances from December 2013.

Thousands were left disappointed earlier this year as tickets sold out weeks in advance, so don’t miss your chance to experience this electrifying show once more. Fuerzabruta is an event where worlds collide, where dreams are real and reality takes a back seat. Give in to it, let go and enjoy the spectacular ride.

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