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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Derevo: Harlekin


Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: Pleasance One


Low Down

Derevo have been bringing their unique brand of theatre to Edinburgh since 1997. This is their first show in three years and it certainly is something special. It is artistic theatre of the highest quality, making full use of stage effects that complement the wonderful performers.



We enter the auditorium and meet a chuckling clown character before we find a seat, he is the host that introduces the drama. On either side of the stage are two bird cages, behind a tattered curtain lies golden light. Canned applause rasps out as the clown attempts tricks. He goes through, the applause quietens, he pokes his head back in and it comes back, and forth, back and forth. And then, the curtains are thrust open to reveal the two principle characters, Harlekin and Columbine

The narrative theme is the relationship between these two characters, but it is not so much a narrative piece as a display of old fashioned theatrical wonder. Like those old fashioned sweets, this show seems to have been constructed from the chipping block of theatrical lore. Using elements of dance, peformance art, circus, mime and Commedia dell’arte (where the characters of Harlequin and Columbine come from), each scene stands alone stylistically. The lighting, sound, costume and overall design is fantastic; and the characterizations and kinetic mobility of Derevo founders Anton Adasinsky, Elena Yarovaya and Anna Budanova, are multi-layered.

The classical music soundtrack is operatic in scope and works in harmony with the dramatic tragedy of the two characters. The lighting comes from all angles and in all colours. And once we accept the basic theme we sit back and take in the spectacle like a surreal dream. Some scenes stand out, like the delightful flirtation between Harlekin and Columbine as they rise up and see each other from their windows each morning; when Harlekin is used as a shower, a CD player and a bathtowel; or the nurses scene, as she uses a giant needle around his chest with epic classical music and in strong white light: These are whole worlds of theatre in themselves.

Some of the other scenes and vignettes are more sinister, more abstract, and you can make your own minds up about what they mean. I would say that the wide variety of style and tone may have the effect of bewilderment in the collective audiences’ consciousness, and not everyone may feel entirely comfortable or satisfied by this; but if you, as I’m sure you will, accept it as the wonderful piece of art it is, it will become something very special.





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