The late British director Peter Brook started The Empty Space by arguing that you can take any empty space, call it a stage, have a man walk across it with an audience watching, and call that an act of theatre.

The creator and performer of Only Bones v1.9, Matt Pasquet, and the creative team from Kallo Collective might retort: “Okay, Pete, but what if he only has a square metre?”

Only Bones v1.9 is, according to the prefacing disclaimer, a “limited physical theatre experiment”. It is “a bit weird”, and (sic) “European” in “not the sexy way”.

Pasquet’s version of Only Bones, currently being presented at Fringe hub Fool’s Paradise, premiered in Helsinki in 2022 and is an iteration of New Zealand-born circus and physical theatre performer Thom Monckton’s 2015 work Only Bones 1.0.

Monckton’s concept places uniform, restrictive parameters on solo performers – “one light, one square metre…ish, one performer” – but allows them to devise their own performance. By seeing how the artist adapts and responds to limitation, we experience their unique creativity and skill, and are introduced to the world they create.

The show commences with a larval mass created by a large sheet of foil on stage that starts to morph and pulse with Pasquet’s movement beneath. Amid a harsh, ominous soundscape, we are gradually introduced to the performer’s limbs as a small window of light shifts and changes to highlight certain movements.

Pasquet’s physical prowess and precision is impressive throughout the work, as is his self-deprecating sense of humour and play. There’s also a cheeky exhibitionist streak that is gleefully expressed in an early vignette, demonstrating a certain gluteal dexterity.

A microphone beneath the raised stage captures every movement of the performer’s limbs and distorts it through digital effects. Additional use of projection and clever mirror work by Pasquet make for intriguing technical displays. At times, however, the inventive design can detract from the captivating kinetic energy of the performer.

Only Bones v1.9’s exploratory aims around consciousness and self-struggle emerge as the work progresses, particularly as Pasquet’s martial arts skill is demonstrated. The piece encourages diverse interpretation, and intrigues one to keep watching.

The Roundabout venue ­– alongside a bar and dance floor in Victoria Square – regrettably does not complement the intriguing, minimalist aims of Only Bones v1.9. This show deserves to be seen in a black box, and unfortunately highlights the declining number of suitable performance spaces in Adelaide for independent and experimental work.

Despite this, Pasquet’s deft physical exploration of consciousness and struggle with the self, and his response to limitations, is fascinating to observe, and well worth the visit.

Only Bones v1.9 is at the Roundabout in Fool’s Paradise, Victoria Square, until March 3.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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