Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Russian theatre company Derevo have been coming to Edinburgh for many years and one can always rely on them to be highly visual, artistic and eccentric. This show uses movement, light and sound to create a strange and fantastical world. There may be many different opinions as to what it is actually about, and at times it is not easy to watch, but few would deny the high quality of the production.
Here is a dark world of demons and nightmares, where the players are strange hairless beings who communicate only with their bodies. It is a place of extremes, of weird interactions and heightened senses, and where a tortured soul faces his demons.
Two young people cavort in the wings, a dark stage, a gothic atmosphere. A man gets up from the audience, he seems assured, but as soon as he steps foot on the stage becomes the victim, hounded and haunted by nightmares. He writhes, he raves, he seems trapped. Blackness envelops him and he is unable to escape. Four performers work in unison against one, their incessant goading of a man drowning in darkness ripples back and forth like a sea of oil.
As the play progresses it may become less or more clear depending on how you interpret it. There are some beautifully simple theatrical effects: A huge black cloth that seems to go on forever as it is dragged across the stage, cones on sticks filled with ‘snow’, fluttering butterflies on sticks and bizarre characters such as a giant pony-like beast without arms; a sad, melting snowman and a scarecrow with a nest of eggs on his head
The protagonist, and Derevo frontman, Anton Adasinsky, creates an insane character who takes a lot of mental and physical punishment on stage, yet seems to be really enjoying himself. There are times when he truly loses it. Almost naked, stuffing tomatoes into his mouth, writhing in mud and grime.
The overarching theme seems to be of torture, both mental and physical. It seems to begin at the character’s birth and end with his death. It may be the metaphor for the tyranny of man, perhaps the dark and turbulent history of Russia, or the birth and life of Homo Sapiens.
The stagecraft and technical effects are tremendous, they heighten the characters presence with brooding, multi-angled light and surreal costumes. The spectacle as a whole however perhaps lacks a certain emotion or feeling. It is quite grotesque at times, and the intimate moments are often superseded by heavier ones. At its core there is a tussle between masculinity, love and aggression; and although one starts to really feel for the character, you are often thrown, and it is difficult to understand why.
This is not a happy piece of work, it is extremely serious in its theatrical approach, and is a piece of art in it’s own right. It does not bow or hold back in any way and in a less daring world of theatrical taboos, it is something to cherish.