La Fura Dels Baus, Manes

Review in Issue 10-3 | Autumn 1998

After a ten-year absence, Barcelona’s troupe of renegade performance anarchists returned to the UK in July, to the delight of a thrill-seeking audience. Performed in promenade in a dark and cavernous warehouse, Manes is an experiment in abjection – body fluids flow, performer’s writhe naked and dead chickens are chucked about. For a company supposedly on the cutting edge, it has to be said that the symbolism and imagery is just a little obvious!

For the first twenty minutes, though, Manes is genuinely exciting. As an exercise in crowd control and manipulation it certainly gets the adrenaline pumping – La Fura Dels Baus herd the audience around a dark auditorium like cattle. The company show no mercy. If you happen to be in the path of a metal trolley, as a muscle-bound maniac propels it at high speed across the floor, then tough luck! You’re going to get hurt. The audience spun, panic struck, first in one direction then the next; desperate to avoid physical injury as performers loomed unexpectedly out of the darkness.

Once the panic dies down, the rest of the performance unfortunately fails to deliver on its early promise. Perhaps it’s too hard to maintain such high octane antics for the duration of an hour-long show. There are some stunning visual ideas: like the baby-sized bandaged bundles which litter the floor and appear to write and moan. But the grotesquery only works in flashes. It is inevitably too humourless and relentless to have much lasting resonance.

Whilst La Fura Dels Baus explore the well-trodden theme of birth, death and resurrection with a passion and energy rarely seen, this show relies too heavily on gimmickry. Beyond the shock value of a genuinely original style, the company have nothing interesting to say.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jul 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-3
p. 25