Review: The Great Farini Project (NextSteps Harbourfront Centre)

By Adelina Fabiano

Physical power coupled with illusionary levitation reaches unlimited perfection in stage offering in Toronto

I may have briefly heard of the famous Canadian hi-wire walker, William Hunt, known to the world as “ The Great Farini,” but was never quite interested enough to learn more about it. That is until last night’s exhilarating and uplifting performance in the Enwave Theatre at the Harbourfront Centre.

The Great Farini Project” is a daring and daunting dance of one-upmanship between two extraordinary circus performers, real life rivals from the late 19 century; The Great Farini and his foe, The Great Blondin. Mixed with contemporary movement, ballet and aerial choreography, this show took us on a journey to great heights!

I would be lying if I said the performer’s physical body strength and dexterity weren’t alluring to the eyes. Their toned and elegant bodies floated throughout the air with the help of a steel contraption about 8 meters long, known as an E.S. dance instrument. Although the high wire characters made the task of levitation seem effortless, it was certainly not an easy feat for the everyday man.

Brian Solomon (“The Great Farini”) and Brendan Wyatt (” The Great Blondin”), played their roles with strength, humour and precision. It was interesting to learn that in reality the two performers never met, as their inner lives seemed so extraordinarily intertwined. That is at least the feeling I got from the actor’s connection with one another.

I found myself struggling to hear some of the lines, but then again, the spoken text was minimal. The visual effectiveness of the continuous fluid movement kept me enthralled. The movement spoke for itself and there was little need for words.

Sharon B. Moore’s detailed choreography accompanied by Derek Aasland’s direction was magical and inspiring. Captivating floor movement with one physical body struggling to outshine the other was brilliant. The entire stage was used, combining various levels for the eyes to wander to.

Sven Johansson’s aerial choreography was ambitious yet playful. As the two “Greats” rotated in their contraptions in a variety of positions, I thought what a unique and innovative piece of dance technology. The operators, also playing the characters of the Butlers, helped control the devices.

Classical Victorian piano music, appropriate to that time era accompanied the movement. The lighting design by Martin Saintonge created another realm of existence. At the onset of the show, five flood lights focusing on center stage with smaller floor lights aligned the back of the stage bringing us into the circus world where few men dare to go.

The opening night got a standing ovation from many, including myself. My guest, also my husband, marvelled at the complexity of the actor’s ability and the overall creativity of the piece. He rarely watches dance performances, but he always says if it weren’t for my appreciation of the art, he wouldn’t be exposed to such ingenuity, skill and talent.

Very few people have the courage or discipline to put themselves out there the way these performers do, and even more people wouldn’t dare challenge themselves in life the way “The Great Farini” and “The Great Blondin” did in this theatrical display of strategic one-upmanship.

Details:

Performances run from September 22 – 25 at 8pm at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, 231 Queens Quay West, Toronto.

-All Tickets cost $34 • Students/Senior/CADA $28.50. Group rates are also available.

– To purchase tickets call 416.973.4000 or book online at www.harbourfrontcentre.ca.
For more information visit www.farini.org

Photograph of Brian Solomon as The Great Farini and Brendon Wyatt as The Great Blondin taken by Leif Norman.

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