Leo is a gravity-defying solo directed by Daniel Brière and performed, in its most recent incarnation, by William Bonnet. The show is based around a single illusion: Bonnet’s live performance on one half of the stage is filmed, rotated ninety degrees and then projected back onto the other half. It’s like watching a tennis match as my eyes dart from side to side. On the left is the on-screen fascination of a gravity-less world. On the right is its concurrent “making-of”. The show’s simple situation is brought to life through a blend of acrobatics, dance, comedy, animation and technology. Leo has already had a decent run, having won awards at the Edinburgh Fringe and been performed around the world. Its London debut is part of the London International Mime Festival which champions contemporary circus and visual theatre.

Heiko Kalmbach
Heiko Kalmbach

The piece begins by clearly establishing its premise. Bonnet is trapped in a door-less, windowless room, furnished only by a light hanging from the ceiling (or protruding from a wall, depending on which side you’re looking at). The on-screen movements and postures are unremarkable to begin with. The projected Bonnet leans against a wall and waits whilst his off-screen self lies flat on the floor, head jutting slightly forward to recreate a standing posture. Gradually he is alerted to his bizarre predicament by small incongruities. He begins to delight in the possibilities of this new world and we do too. After a period of playfulness he is soon reminded of his loneliness. He imagines a life in his box, chalking homely images onto a wall: furniture, a cat, the view through a window. He even draws dinner for two but his companion never turns up. Leo takes further surreal turns as the chalked images become an underwater animation and Bonnet dances a duet with his filmed self before finally escaping his cell.

Leo’s understated virtuosity is charming. I spent most of my time watching the screen, most impressed when things looked perfectly normal but delighting in the bizarre mechanics as things go awry. Bonnet explores his predicament with humour as he slowly finds joy in his strange situation. He does well to convince us of the normality of his world first before using its possibilities. He creates a world with rules that we understand before he breaks them. Bonnet himself is a captivating and skillful performer.

Leo has a limited run here in London before it tours elsewhere around the globe. Fortunately if you missed it there’s more of its sort in the London International Mime Festival. The festival will be presenting more contemporary circus, mime, theatre and puppetry over the next couple of weeks and is certainly worth checking out.

****1