Edinburgh Fringe 2009
This company from St Petersburg have created something extraordinary. Wordless, intensely physical, and at once playful, joyous and tragic.. this production is brimming with artistic expression.
The action moves through a series of scenes based around the theme of living in the city of St Petersburg. The performers, three male and one female, inhabit the bodies and souls of numerous characters: Happy friends, lonely lovers, frustrated business men; they express their desires, their dreams and fears of living in the modern city.
The first scene is the the happiest as carefree friends frolic half naked by the lakeside with water lapping the shore and birds singing as they dance around the stage and fight over a girl. This innocence ends as they leave the stage though, looking at us worriedly, their happy bubble has burst. The action moves into the city as they are violently thrown in and out of the metal carragies of a cacophonous train, and into a soundscape of the city. The mood changes again as chairs are rolled on and they have another ‘dance off’ in the office. – They use a shopping trolley, they dance together and alone, they drink champagne – and all to continuously shifting sound and lighting effects. – There are hippy girls, comical KGB agents, blind men. The mood gets darker, then lighter, then angrier. – There is simply too much going on to mention.
Amazingly, this young company have already been working together ten years and they create their work through improvisation. They use the large space to its limits and release a lot of emotional energy. The narrative moves from the lake shore through the dark heart of the city until they collapse on stage at the end. The performers are skilled and adept and are clearly passionate about their work.
The sound design is richly conceived and in emotive terms works equally, and in tandem with the movement. The lighting is also strong, with dense reds and whites adding to the changing moods. The dramatic features and physical action together feel like an abstract mish-mash of little film scenes.
There is perhaps a little too much abstact movement at times, and sometimes goes on too long. The most watchable scenes are when they are working together, and the earlier scenes are more fun than the later ones. Sometimes it seems the music is there to cover for the abstractness of the movement, and without it one would start wondering what we are watching. Some of the scenes are also rather slow and overly dark, and we start asking what is going on instead of enjoying it on its terms. But this may be subjective, and this kind of work is likely to arouse different reactions, good and bad, in different people. Overall, the depth and richness of this piece deserves a larger audience.