Towards the end of Imperium by La Fura dels Baus a half naked girl with silver body paint tried to hide behind me as another girl, also half naked, threw a bucket full of water at her. I ended up with wet trousers and a wet jacket. A moment later another girl followed suit with a bucket full of rice. This time I didn’t get the full load. I was lucky. Other people in the audience were hit by a lime gun and a bucket of water, in either order.
Imperium by La Fura dels Baus is disorienting, thought provoking, violent, sexy and cool and because of that even more thought provoking. If you let the thought enter your mind, that is.
Admittedly the storyline is a bit thin. First the rulers oppress the people. The people rise against the rulers and overthrow them. Then they kill each other in a Hobbesian war of all against all (Bellum omnium contra omnes). But this is theatre and the telling is more important than the tale.
The performers are all women. Had the cast been all male the effect would have been totally different. The women have well trained bodies. They look sexy, especially when they undress and rub their bodies with body paint. But it is also disconcerting that a group of women engage in violence. Violence and oppression are usually associated with men. It is interesting to note that when the piece was performed in Beijing earlier this year, the authorities requested that the performers didn’t undress and played down the excessive display of violence.
La Fura dels Baus excels when it comes to manipulating the audience. Throughout the show the performers mix with the audience. In one scene the audience is driven towards the speakers. The closer you get the more oppressive the noise and the sense of being packed together. Then the audience is split in two as the performers enter the stage floor again. In the final scene the performers run around chasing each other with buckets full of water and rice and lime guns. It’s only water, but everyone in the audience tries to hide behind each other when it would have been easy to step in and “protect” one of the performers.