Angels & Demons Spin Through The Void & Dance Around These Lost Souls

I miss this show! De La Guarda (off-Broadway). Probably the best thing ever produced without a stage.

In 1999 a friend of mine took me to see a show in New York. It was an off-Broadway production and she refused to answer any of my queries about what we were going to be seeing. There was just this smirk of anticipation on her face.

SOUNDTRACK (play me and read on):

The same smirk I had on my face in subsequent years when I flew with friends back to New York on several occasions and each time took them to see De La Guarda – and so take pleasure in observing another human being have a virgin experience of what is probably the greatest show ever put on stage… where no stage exists.

That’s what struck me the first time I walked into the theatre. Also the fact all the staff and ushers were being particularly aggressive about herding us into the large, dark, and utterly empty room which had an artificially low ceiling of taught white fabric. The size of this room cannot be over-exaggerated and the fact more and more of us were being shoved and goaded to keep moving and pack in ever more tightly brought into mind flavours of historical mass executions. Seriously! It was that weird.

And then it started. The whole ceiling began to glow with colour. It was like a vast projection screen. Soft dawn light accompanied by a soundtrack of tropical wildlife waking up. A couple thousand people stood there, necks craned, faces pointing up in awe at this colourful and very effective spectacle. Ooo, lovely.

So the stage was a large projection screen above us, right? Wrong.

Something came sweeping past… on the other side. A glimpse of a large, strangely formed shadow.

What the hell was that?

And then what looked like frogspawn started rolling across the taught fabric, glass marbles catching whatever coloured light was being shone onto it making them glow. They rolled, or  rather, were being rolled, flung across the fabric by something above us, hidden from view. The ceiling was now a barrier, a boundary to another world above.

Which is just about when the shadowy creature came crashing down through it.  Dangling on a rope, a face like a demon, hair all wild and spiked with feathers, it span and jerked and laughed and sneered at the part of the audience directly below it… people were cowering in shock.

A dozen more of them came crashing down through the ceiling. Which was just paper.  Several of them came right down amongst us as the music changed in energy and became dramatic and sinister. They grabbed a woman in the audience and before anyone could react they all vanished, hoisted up at speed, carrying the screaming woman with them… up beyond the mostly intact ceiling and out of sight. The music became quiet. Everyone in the audience looked around at each other with nervous smiles, mouthing the words: what – the – fuck – was – that!?

The ceiling was torn away. And the performance unfolded above our heads. Demons and lost souls dressed in suits, everyone on ropes. Spinning, crawling, spiraling, running up walls in slow motion (an incredible feat of strength and physical control). It was dramatic, haunting, inspirational, powerful. Just amazing.

Example of skill, strength and control for wall running scenes…

It’s been many years since they closed it down but I still think of it often. And not just when I am writing, but that does tend to be when I call upon the feelings, mood and emotions it inspired.  Being in the audience you didn’t just observe De La Guarda. You were a part of De La Guarda and the experience has left an indelible thumbprint on my imagination.  Especially in regards to the struggle of a soul trying to find redemption; the black chasm of despair; the mocking howls and taunts of demons; the blood lust of fury.

De La Guarda was presented by David Binder. Some of the creators of De La Guarda went on to become part of Fuerzabruta.

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