Social Media

Diqui James - Fuerza Bruta Syndicated Interview

After 10 long years, Fuerza Bruta is finally returning to its London home – Roundhousewith their incredible new show AVEN, a rollercoaster ride of euphoria, optimism and passion beyond your imagination and will fill your heart with joy this summer.

Welcome to AVEN – a celebration of adventure and paradise. A place that exists in our minds. A space without a floor. Without boundaries. A show that seeks happiness and pushes every limit to find it. It’ll sweep you up and fill you with an unstoppable force – are you ready?

Arts critic and writer Andrzej Lukowski chatted to Artistic Director Diqui James exploring the history of the company, and the meaning behind AVEN after a highly successful South American tour.

In 1997, a group of young Argentians calling themselves De La Guarda were touring an exhilarating but almost totally unclassifiable theatre show called Villa Villa throughout North America. Twenty-seven-years later, company co-founder Diqui James recalls that they were in Montreal when they discovered that they were on the front cover of Time Out London.

‘It said “Catch the LIFT: Probably the Best Theatre in the World”’ recalls a proud James, still able to recall the headline almost three decades on.

And no wonder: it was the start of a beautiful relationship between him and London. Initially Villa Villa was booked for a short run as part of that year’s London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). But with the company making magazine covers before they’d ever played a show in the capital, it’s not a surprise that the LIFT shows – which took place at the 3 Mills Studios in East London – rapidly sold out ‘We were shocked, really,’ says James, ‘it was amazing. Imagine arriving in New York with your first show and suddenly having that attention – it wouldn’t happen!’.

A cinematic, endlessly inventive explosion of MTV-indebted visuals and performers who spend much of the time either suspended above the audience or cheekily interacting with it, Villa Villa eventually transferred to London’s huge, iconic Roundhouse venue in Camden, where it ran for an astonishing 11 months, and might have stayed longer had the venue not closed for a major refurb. ‘This was the old Roundhouse’ says James, ‘and we fell in love with it’.

The feeling was mutual: when it was time for the Roundhouse to reopen, there was only one possibility. ‘It was amazing’ says James ‘we closed the Roundhouse with De La Guarda, and then several years later we reopened it with Fuerza Bruta’.

Meaning ‘brute force’, Fuerza Bruta was the name of the James-led successor company to De La Guarda, and also the name of its original show. Reopening the Roundhouse in 2006 and playing a second stint there in 2013, Fuerza Bruta was a colossal global success on a scale at least as big as Villa Villa, touring the world and enjoying a walloping seven-year continuous run off-Broadway. Based around a series of even more stunning set pieces – most famously a man ruggedly running through walls, and a transparent-bottomed swimming pool that descends over the audiences heads to within touching distance.

 Fuerza Bruta is clearly theatre, and yet hard to really compare to anything else: ‘it’s primitive theatre with very modern tools,’ says James when asked if he has a best way of describing it. ‘So you will see something technically very modern, but the feeling of it is very primitive. We don't use words, we don't tell a story. We go to your body: to the feelings, to the senses. We want to go faster than your brain.’

 The original show is now an adult, turning 18 this year. That is a long time for a company to have a single piece in its repertoire and while the original was heavily tinkered with over the years and remains in circulation as Fuerza Bruta: Wayra, it was always apparent that James and company were going to have to make a brand new show at some point.

So what next?

‘The happiest show on Earth!’ grins James.

Indeed, after a phenomenally successful run in their home city of Buenos Aires, they’re currently performing it on tour in Latin America. The second show from Fuerza Bruta is the radically joyous Aven. The idea of ‘trying to do the happiest thing we can’ was not the initial impulse behind a follow-up to Wayra. But when he shared some of his ideas with his son, James was bemused when he described them as ‘too dark’.

Taken aback, he accepted it as a challenge, and so Aven was born, a radiant, dance-based spectacle devised by James with music by composer Gaby Kerpel, who James promptly phoned up with a challenge: ‘I called him and said: ”OK, Gaby: now, you have to be the happiest person on earth.’
Creating a purely happy show hadn’t been entirely creatively easy: it’s a pretty unusual thing to do. ‘We play with the emotions with beauty, with happiness, with euphoria with, you know – all the time trying not to come back to the places where we know that we were comfortable.’

He laughs: ‘We would pass music back and forth and I would say: Gaby, is this the happiest you can do? Come on, you can do it, you can make it happier.’

It was a tough challenge, but it has paid off. During the show’s initial Buenos Aires run, James noticed that as word got out the audience was palpably diversifying, from the usual hip adult crowd to a lot more young people. ‘It has this carnival feeling,’ he says, ‘that everybody can share a celebration and to break these boundaries between ages and between cultures’.

Indeed, at a notably glum time in human history, perhaps the reason the show has been so well received is that it’s just the tonic we all need.

‘I think it's so powerful when I see young people coming to the show,’ says James, ‘and I just want the show to let them know that happiness is possible, you know?’

Aven will run all summer at the Roundhouse, where James is thrilled at the return after more than 10 years. The company loves to play the vaulted, spacious Roundhouse, which is the largest and most dramatic venue the company performs in: ‘the size of it, the shape of it, the height of it, it’s beautiful, you know?’

He also reckons London crowds are some of the best and least standoffish:
‘What I feel is that people in London are very confident about theatre. What we do is different, so sometimes you go to a city and people need proof, they need somebody else to say “this is good’ to them. But in London if they like it, they like it, if they want to shout, they shout, if they want to clap they have the confidence – the connection is immediately there, you know.’

Get ready London: happiness is coming your way.

Fuerza Bruta runs at London’s Roundhouse from Friday 12th July until Sunday 1st September 2024. Tickets are available from

Post a Comment


Theme by STS