LEO is a dazzling, gravity-defying creation
Original idea and performance by Tobias Wegner. Directed by Daniel Brière. A Circle of Eleven production presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Tuesday, December 4. Continues until December 15
LEO is that rare thing—a truly original and dazzling creation.
In this wordless performance, a man finds himself trapped in a room. He soon discovers that the usual rules of gravity don’t apply here, and he begins to explore the possibilities of the space with a child’s glee: climbing the walls, tossing his hat in the air to see where it lands. The most commonplace actions, like drinking a bottle of water, become magical.
To explain how this is achieved would be to give away the first, and perhaps the most crucial, of LEO’s surprises, so let’s just say the show relies on a daring combination of video projection and live performance, and none of it would be possible without the remarkable acrobatic skill and stamina of solo performer Tobias Wegner. His talent is paradoxical: he re-creates the ordinary through extraordinary means, and we are simultaneously disoriented and reoriented, again and again.
After a while, the man grows tired of the empty space. He finds a piece of chalk, and like the protagonist in Crockett Johnson’s children’s classic Harold and the Purple Crayon, he begins to fill in and populate his world with furniture, a radio, plants, and even a few pets. The show’s magic moves to another level as the animals come alive through animation.
As the animation literally begins to fill the room, the show segues into its third and final movement, a trippy, surreal sequence in which Wegner’s acrobatics shift into the realm of pure dance. His fluid movements are echoed in time-delayed video projections, creating a ghostly effect that is both visually breathtaking and thematically satisfying.
Wegner’s virtuosity is world-class: he’s performed this show on five continents. With Daniel Brière’s skillful direction and Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola’s choreography, Wegner makes difficult acrobatics look effortless; he’s also a charmingly understated clown. Ingo Panke’s animation and Heiko Kalmbach’s video design are perfect partners.
I’ve been deliberately vague in describing how LEO works its magic, but that’s only because you really need to see it for yourself.