It’s exhausting even watching Markéta Vacovská take on the solo role of a boxer, fighting both her own limits and an imaginary opponent in this gut punch of a piece from Czech company Spitfire.
The action comes in bursts punctuated by a bell – a long windchime struck once for rest and three times to resume the fight. Each time Vacovská drags herself back to her feet you can see the real-time weariness in her grow.
She starts on a blank stage, removing her shirt so she’s left in vest and jeans. Making claws into fists, she tilts her body in straight lines, then drops down into a deep lunge, majestically poised. The movements aren’t the literal ones of boxing – although those come in flashes too. In the breaks she pants like she has just surfaced from underwater.
But this is really a duet, and Vacovská’s movement is matched for fury by Lenka Dusilová’s live sound design. With voice, guitar, theremin and a clutch of other sound effects at her fingertips, Dusilová whips up a tornado of howling, rumbling and whirring. At one point she sounds like a helicopter while Vacovská’s arms rotate in frenzied ellipses onstage.
By the final round—in which Vacovská leans over a glass of water, trying to suck her gumshield back into her mouth—her body may be clean but she looks beaten. Distilled into abstract sound and movement, One Step Before the Fall speaks eloquently of the pain, fury, hope, and grit of the boxer.