|London and nationwide|
Assembly Big Top, Edinburgh, until Aug 26 (0131-226 2428)
FOUNDED IN St Petersburg in 1988, Derevo (Russian for "tree") adheres to a rigorous aesthetic derived from Japan's postwar performance style of butoh. Wiry and shaven- headed, the company members lead lives of monastic theatricality at their base in Dresden Their first, unforgettable, Fringe calling card was Red Zone, an exercise in brute metaphysical anarchy first performed in 1997. Next came Once, an uproariously comic yet deeply moving fable of unrequited love. Staged inside a circus tent at the Edinburgh Academicals Sports Centre, their latest production, La Divina Commedia, delves into themes of moral responsibility, mortality, celebration, suffering and spiritual redemption and is
rife with Christian and pagan iconography. Derevo's visceral, frightening and funny 90-minute epic is a nightly battle between theatrical madness and aesthetic control. The company founder and artistic director, Anton Adassinski, plays a sort of satanic ringmaster. Three other actors, equally brilliant, embody a rogues' gallery of witches and wizards. The main set-piece is a giant turntable and the soundtrack blends industrial noise, throat singing, Frank Zappa and Queen. A raucous birthday party, in which bread is passed around and the wine flows freely, leads to a devastating finale. Derevo packs a diabolical fairground feeling into a piece that should delight fans and convert newcomers.