A splash of water in the dark establishes the first primitive connection, starting the energy flowing through spectators’ spines like electricity.
Staged at Centro Cultural Recoleta, Pinchón Baldinu’s ‘Hombre Vertiente’ is not just one of the best water shows ever produced, it is a highly enigmatic and captivating journey into the human mind, metaphorically presented to an astonished audience through the performance of tribal acrobatics and the pumping beat of electronic music.
Borne from the imagination of Argentine director Pinchón Baldinu, the show comes from one of the most internationally acclaimed choreographers the country has seen. Baldinu’s 1995 hit Villa Villa was seen by more than three million people around the world and, in 2004, he was summoned by Disney’s studio to become an artistic director of Tarzan’s in-air choreographies.
A few months earlier he had founded the Ojala Theatre Company in Argentina, and it was through this company that he first presented ‘Hombre Vertiente’ at the 2008 Zaragoza Expo.
In the beginning, the show was simply an acrobatic display themed around water, but its success was so enormous that, despite a relatively short run-time of only 20 minutes, more than a million people queued to see the spectacle in the 93 consecutive days of showings that followed. Yet, Baldinu knew that more could be done and that the show had enormous potential. By the time the show debuted in Buenos Aires’ theatres in 2011, it had developed into a mature and well-rounded work of art.
“I thought we had to abandon the theme of water and focus on the story of a particular man […] by showing us his existence, with all its contradictions, its ghosts, its demons and accomplishments,” Baldinu told press before the play’s debut last September.
One man, one goal, one mission.
Soaked in the dark, wondering exactly what is about to take place in the high-ceilinged theatre hall, we are told that we are about to witness the story of the Aguador(the Waterman, performed by Leo Kreimer) – “but the name is not important,” the voiceover states, imposingly.
‘Hombre Vertiente’ is the tale of a character who struggles to discover himself and travels through the amazing worlds created by his own mind, in which each performance of mid-air acrobatics reflects the devious twists of his tormented mind.
The show does not become a speculative guesswork surrounding the miserable condition of the human soul, though. Words stop right after the curtain falls, and from that moment on it remains the job of the music and the gymnastic bodies to do all the talking.
Throughout five different metaphorical sets, the Aguadorfights in mid-air with the beastly creations haunting his imagination. In one highly spectacular scene, he confronts his own alter egos where, in a 7-minute-long battle, performers explode 18,000 liters of water while flying around the stage. In another he travels through the three-dimensional desert of his soul, eventually becoming absorbed by it and finally, assists the struggle of female acrobats trapped in the gigantic silky convolutions of his brain.
The end of the show, which finishes with a great deal of dancing and the appearance of an enormous inflatable dragon, leaves the audience captivated by the primitive energy of the performance.
Watching the soaked audience swaying and screaming with enthusiasm makes you think that the fourth wall has probably never been that broken in a theatre show before. The aboriginal beat of Gaby Kerpel’s electronic soundtrack fuses the mood of the crowd with the show, working as amplifier for those basic feelings like euphoria, tranquility, hope and fear felt by the Aguador along his journey.
A surge of disappointment sweeps the audience when the lights turn on after only one hour and the tribal connection breaks up at the highest point of the emotional climax. But the sudden cut to the celebrations is understandable. “The show is highly demanding in terms of physical energy,” explains Leo Kreimer, the 40 year old star of the show. “We can’t physically last for more than one hour, we have to push our bodies to their limits.
“This show has a different characteristics from any other show,” he continues. “The storyline wants to show people something, yet it’s not really clear what this something is. We want to keep it this way, so every one who sees it can make up his own narrative, looking for himself into all of the metaphorical scenarios we present in the show.”
Given the success ‘Hombre Vertiente’ has encountered so far, the production company have confirmed that the show will continue to be staged at the same venue, Centro Cultural Recoleta, until next June.