“LEO” wows audience with gravity-defying show

Jen Lassen

Senior Writer

Director Daniel Briere’s LEO, The Anti-Gravity Show came to the Weis Center for Performing Arts’ main stage on Sept. 24.

Performed by William Bonnet of Avignon, France, the show captured the art of optical illusion through the interplay between video projection and live performance.

The show began with LEO, an ordinary man holding a suitcase, who soon discovers that he no longer has control over his gravity.

On one side of the main stage, Bonnet performed movements, such as handstands and other arm and leg movements, on a “mini-stage” that included a floor and three walls. On this mini-stage, Bonnet moved while mostly lying down.

On the other side of the main stage, a video projection screen displayed Bonnet’s movements. These movements looked right-side-up to the audience. In reality, the audience knew that Bonnet was lying down while moving and performing, yet his movements projected on the video screen appeared as if he were standing up and truly defying gravity.

When LEO discovered that he could defy gravity, he got creative. To portray a sense of LEO’s new, confusing, and exciting reality, Bonnet drew images with chalk on the walls of the mini-stage, including a pet cat, a chair, a table, and a window.

Different lighting effects, music, and moving animated images allowed LEO’s story to progress. Using a time-lapse effect, Bonnet’s movements appeared suspended on the projection screen for a portion of the show.

As LEO became increasingly aware of his situation, his emotions changed drastically. Bonnet’s facial expressions ranged from confusion, to terror, to insecurity, to wariness, and then to joy and pleasure.

Once LEO realized that he felt confined in the “room,” he used the suitcase to escape from his situation. Bonnet escaped through a hole on the side of one wall on the mini-stage, which was disguised by the suitcase. On the video projection screen, Bonnet appeared to drop vertically through a hole in the floor. In his live performance on the mini-stage, Bonnet appeared to crawl horizontally through this same hole.

LEO, The Anti-Gravity Show won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, a theater prize given annually at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other awards include the Three Weeks Editors Award, the Scotsman Fringe First Award, and most recently the John Chataway Award for Innovation at the 2013 Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Briere has been directing, performing in, and creating new plays since 2003. He has been featured on television and film, and has directed over 20 plays including “Bashir Lazhar” and La Fin.

Tobias Wegner, the original performer for LEO, The Anti-Gravity Show, also came up with the concept for the show. Wegner won the European competition “Jeunes Talents Cirque Europe” with the project AIUAIO.

Also involved with LEO, The Anti-Gravity Show are Gregg Parks, creative producer; Flavia Hevia, set and lighting designer; Heiko Kalmbach, video designer; Ingo Panke, animation; and Heather MacCrimmon, costume designer.

LEO, The Anti-Gravity Show tours in countries all over the world, including cities such as Berlin, Melbourne, Moscow, London, and Hong Kong.

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