From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to New York, Moscow and Hong Kong, the multi-award winning show, LEO, arrives on our humble shores in April. For those intrigued about defying gravity, get booking – because this one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection. Universally appealing to adults and children alike, this is the funny, intriguing and moving journey of a seemingly ordinary man whose world becomes physically unhinged.
Having caught a sneak peek, thanks to the preview video, I was uber-keen to speak to Y2D Productions Inc. Creative Producer, Gregg Park, to find out more. Y2D Productions Inc. is a Montréal-based Production Company, whose principal focus is to create and tour original, innovative and entertaining shows for the international performing arts market. Parks has toured the world as an onstage performer and gradually became fascinated with production and its extraordinary possibilities. And, from the praise LEO has received, this breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ has resulted in a mind-bending, spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show. I caught up with Gregg to see if I could get any trade secrets out of him…
Without spoiling the surprise, can you tell us a bit about the show?
GP: First and foremost, the audience will be surprised. The techniques that the show uses are very simple but they are totally unexpected. They can expect to laugh as there are many funny sections in the show and many audiences also find the show surprisingly touching. The show presents the story of a character, LEO, who finds himself in what is, at first, a pretty impossible situation but slowly, as the situation evolves and as LEO continues to try to figure out what is going on, the audience tends to relate emotionally to LEO more and more.
What inspired you to take on gravity and where did the idea for this show come from?
The story of LEO is that we find this character, trapped in a single room. First he discovers that the gravity has changed and as he tries to understand, the more he figures it out, the more he starts to have fun with it. It is through all of this exploration and discovery that the different elements of the show come into play.The idea to try playing with a camera turned on its side came from the original performer Tobias Wegner and it was first incorporated into the production myLIFE that played in Berlin for a year. As a result of the evolution of the ideas during the year, it was decided to experiment further with the ideas that had developed, to see if it was possible to create a longer work. The result of that work is LEO.
Were there any bumps in the road? Or any surprises along the way?
There were many bumps in the road. We tried huge sets with furniture built onto the sides of walls and a trampoline. We had at one moment the entire set covered in green screen fabric held in place by electromagnets. But at each step the show wanted to stay simple. Each time we had a really complicated idea, it didn’t really work that well, but each time we found a simple solution it worked better.
Tell us about the training; how long did it take to become weightless?!
The training to be weightless is both more and less than one would expect. Maintaining the positions and the movements that are required for over an hour place significant demands on the body. To date, all of the performers who have performed LEO have had a circus artist background. While the show does not incorporate very many acrobatics specifically the training itself is important in allowing the performer to keep track of his orientation in space and to maintain the positions needed for over an hour.
What would you suggest to those who want to train and work in physical theatre? What’s the best way of developing such unique performance skills?
The best way to go for anyone wanting to do physical theatre is to take all types of physical training. Dance classes, martial arts, acrobatics, ball room dancing, resistance training….. anything and everything physical will help. The point is not to ever underestimate the benefit to be gained by exposure to a different training/movement style or form.
You’ve toured the world with this show – tell us, who was the toughest crowd to please?
So far I think the toughest audience was in Moscow. They have a very deep theatrical history and they are used to seeing a lot of theatre. Also, their natural reactions are quite different than western audiences. They were, frequently, much quieter during the show but their reactions at the end were really, really satisfying. In fact LEO went back to Moscow twice last year.
Have you performed in Brighton before? If so, what do you think of Brighton? If not, what have you heard about our beloved city?
No this will be both the show’s and the team’s first time in Brighton. We are really looking forward to it. Brighton has such a long history we are hoping that we can leave a little mark of our own.
Ok, come on then, tell us – “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!”
Well, we don’t like to talk too much about the techniques used in the show because even though we hide nothing and it is very clear to the audience from the very first seconds what we are doing and how we are doing it, we like to maintain a bit of mystery about it before audiences come into the theatre so as to maintain their curiosity. However, I would say that there isn’t just one thing in the show that is surprising – there are many. In fact many audiences and critics have noted that just as you are about to ask the question what can possibly come next, something else, completely unexpected happens.