The gravity defying spectacle of Tobias Wegner’s LEO is set to stun Adelaide Fringe audiences just as another silent physical comedy production, The Boy with Tape on his Face, did in 2009.
Developed in cooperation with Circle of Eleven (Soap), Wegner showcases the ancient ‘gravity defying’ camera effect with LEO. The production astounded Edinburgh Fringe audiences in 2011, winning the Best of Edinburgh Award, and since then the German clown and physical comedian/acrobat has performed LEO close to 200 times across five continents with Time Out New York calling LEO a “deeply impressive work of sustained absurdist magic”.
LEO begins with Wegner sitting in a room/box with a screen next to him projecting his actions in real time - but at a different angle, so when Wegner performs a handstand the screen shows him hanging in mid air with his hands on the wall. In an age where CGI effects have transformed cinema, this old gravity defying technique lets people view live vintage and tangible special effects. It is the mix of the effects with physical comedy, dance and magic, which was performed by the classic cinema masters such as Buster Keaton, Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin, which dazzles today’s audiences, as these are mysterious and foreign feats in a modern age. Once the audience understands the trick, Leo and the audience’s world opens up and the magic happens.
“The trick is exposed right from the beginning,” Wegner explains. “So the audience actually becomes a grinning accomplice, but then gets dragged into a coherent story of a man who is simply trying to solve problems in the beginning but who, over the course of the piece, discovers his creative power and imaginary potential through new circumstances. In the end he only has the biggest of all problems to solve, but everybody is with him.”
Buster Keaton is a major influence with Wegner saying he set the benchmark for silent and physical comedy.
“He was actually a hell of an acrobat as well and that gives his moves and cascades a certain supremacy - even elegance - and makes it very interesting to see him play. I also think the contrast between his frozen face and the overly agile body is intriguing.”
Should you watch the live action as well as the projection when viewing LEO?
“I think the natural flow is that everybody bounces back and forth in the beginning of the piece to understand how the magic actually happens. After a while the story is a little bit more fun to look at on the screen and people focus there, which is fine! Towards the end, as the piece gets more acrobatic and opens another visual layer, I trust people will soak up the stage setup as a whole again. But no matter where you look throughout the piece, you will stay tuned.”
Aside from admiring the effects, physical comedy and acrobatics, what does Wegner want the audience to take away from the show?
“I would love them to a) feel like the power of gravity is slightly overrated on earth and that it should be challenged from time to time and b) embrace the fact that if you look at the same thing from a different perspective it can easily become something else...”
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