Topsy-turvy theatre

Leo (Circle of Eleven)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

September 17 – 22


Circle of Eleven’s “Leo” is an interesting, intriguing one-man show, based on a simple concept.  To one side of the stage is a cutaway of a room, in which Leo performs. On the other side of the stage is a live video projection of the same space, rotated 90 degrees. Using a combination of physical theatre and technological trickery, the show develops from basic movements to complex, impressive acrobatic feats. And this is where its appeal lies; the cleverness comes from anti-gravity abilities (think of Fred Astaire’s famous 1951 “Royal Wedding” number as an exemplar).

The show is skillful and its choreography is engaging in its variety, from simple circus-like clowning to synchronised dance and energetic, gravity-defying wall ascension. And it is easy to appreciate its appeal as family entertainment. Indeed, children were both wide-mouthed and audibly awed in response to the wonder of Leo’s fantastical journey. It is difficult not to appreciate the skill and dexterity being delivered, however, while it is never denigrates to the point of tedium, the wow factor unfortunately starts to wear thin after the initial premise is highlighted in the opening minutes. It is only through the addition of some chalk drawings and cleverly timed video projection (reminiscent of Gene Kelly’s seamless interaction with an animated Jerry Mouse in the 1945 film “Anchors Aweigh”) that the show manages to maintain audience entertainment.

This is a silent show, from a dialogue perspective; however, the music is a highlight that enhances Leo’s emotional journey through realisation and exploration of his gravity-defying dilemma. My expectations of “Leo” were high, having read of its Edinburgh and Montreal festival successes, and it is great to see Brisbane celebrating different theatre of this type. But different and delightful alone do not offer charm enough to justify the hefty $40+ ticket price for a one hour running time.

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