If youve seen Fred Astaire dance up the wall in Royal Wedding, youll have no trouble appreciating the whimsical, logic-challenging activities in Leo (The Anti-Gravity Show).
And if youve ever dreamed youre trapped in a strange room with no way out, then youll sympathize with the title character in this funny and often touching show, beginning a six-day run Tuesday on N.C. State Universitys Center Stage Series.
Originally conceived and performed by German circus artist Tobias Wegner, the 65-minute one-man show follows Leo as he finds himself in a topsy-turvy room where he can climb the wall and spin like a top stuck to it.
These and many other effects are transparently achieved with a video camera, rotated 90-degrees, that captures the performer working through the show lying on the floor. The video is projected on a life-size screen next to the live action, making Leo seem to be standing upright and allows for amusing payoffs. If he slides on his back on the floor, it looks like hes being drawn up the wall. When he does a handstand, it looks like he is sticking straight out from the wall. All these actions are performed with no dialogue, but witty use of music and projected animation help tell the story.
The show was such a hit when it debuted in 2011 that the production company soon needed additional performers to accommodate engagement requests from around the world. Berlin native Julian Schulz, currently touring the show in the U.S. Southeast, is performing the Raleigh run. In late February, he spoke by telephone from Memphis, Tenn., about the show and his involvement. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Q: What do you think is the shows appeal?
A: I think that, while very entertaining, its also quite human. The audience can relate to what the character does and can understand his thinking. Its very touching when he has to make decisions about how to handle his strange circumstances and make the best of it.
Q: What is your background and training?
A: My parents gave me a trampoline when I was 13, and that started an interest in acrobatics. I began training at an acrobatics school when I was 16 and spent three years there.
Q: How did you become involved with Leo?
A: I was in another show produced by the same company managing Leo, so they already knew my abilities when they needed to hire an additional performer. I had to rehearse the show for a month and a half before I started performing it in 2012. Now, its taken me to many wonderful countries, including Australia and New Zealand.
Q: What is the most difficult part in the show, and what do you like best about it?
A: At first, it was hard learning to be artistic with the chalk drawing Leo does on the wall but now its making sure about the little details in the acting. What I like best is making the audience laugh. But the story also has serious elements, and at the end, I feel good about having gotten the whole concept across.
Q: The show requires a lot of stamina. How do you handle doing so many shows, sometimes two in a day?
A: Im used to it now, and Im in good shape. But I have no backup on these tours. If I get sick, I do the show sick. As long as I dont break an arm or leg, Ill be on stage.