Back Left, performed at Tandanya features Ezra LeBank, the Professor of Theatre Arts at California State University, Long Beach, and you sense that teaching is his comfort zone.
He has a genuinely warm and affable stage presence and connects easily with his audience. Early on in the show he declares that one of his students challenged him in class with a comment that stuck with him for life, “If you are always teaching us to be experimental, then why don’t you teach in an experimental way yourself.” And this sets the scene that Back Left is going to be experimental physical theatre.
But the biggest declaration that Ezra Le Bank makes, comes just about the time when you are asking yourself why isn’t the Mexican dancer, Isabel Aguerrebere who appears in the Fringe poster and features in the pre-show publicity, not on stage too.
The fact is that Isabel Aguerrebere didn’t turn up.
She pulled out of the show and Ezra LeBank was left with the decision of either cancelling the show or doing a solo performance. He chose to go on, and had two weeks to put together a show that is curiously satisfying.
Reviews of Back Left performed as a duet say it makes the ordinary a little bit extraordinary. What we got was an extraordinary event that made this show anything but ordinary. A partner pulling out of a duet two weeks before the show goes on in is anything but ordinary. It is traumatic to say the least. What we saw on opening night was the result of two weeks of frantic rewrite which included video footage of LeBank and Aguerrebere performing together that shows two very strong and talented physical theatre practitioners. You are left wondering just how good this performance would be if Isabel Aguerrebere turned up.
Nevertheless, LeBank does some solo work, even though he confesses that his best work is as a partner, but the real treat that the audience gets is an insight into how Back Left was created because LeBank talks us through the scenes, uses audiences to fill in where a partner is essential to the story line, and generally pours his heart out to let us know what it feels like to be, let’s face it, jilted, and to deal with the really tough decision he has had to face.
Back Left, the duet is experimental by design in that it requires audiences to rethink the ordinary movements that we routinely use, and “challenges our minds to reconfigure to unusual ways of action and communication”.
Back Left, the solo piece is experimental by necessity and it takes a talented performer that Ezra LeBank clearly is, to not only connect with the audience instantly, but to win them over as they willingly engage, interact, jump up on stage, read out thought bubbles and then give him a genuinely rousing applause. And it’s not only because they feel sorry for him, this really is a satisfying show. What could have been a disaster is quite triumphant.
Fringe Review By Bob Becker
For tickets, show dates and times to Back Left head to Fringe Tix.