The Daily Telegraph, 1998
Don't laugh at me, I'm an existential clown
MIME was an essential ingredient of classical dance, its elevated sign language conveying "the story so far" as no choreography could. Mime language has been forgotten in Western dance, but it is found nowadays in a strange marriage with circus, which has produced a new kind of "dancey" clown.
So I find myself drawn to the London International Mime Festival, where the edges blur between circus, dance and mime. The capital is awash with foreign clowns, such as Slava Polunin, who plagiarised his own Snow-show in Alegria at the Albert Hall for the Cirque du Soleil.
It was interesting to see LIMF hosting Polunin's for-
mer partner, Anton Adassinsky, and his own clown company last week. These are the abrasively miserable Derevo, who cross over into the kind of thrashing, existential dance-theatre for which DV8 and Nigel Char-nock are known in Britain.
Polunin and Adassinsky share an upbringing in communist Russia and a similar bitter humour, but they have gone clowning in opposite directions. Where Polunin reaches out insistently for audience love, Adassinsky repels it.
The Red Zone (a hit at last year's Edinburgh Fringe) starts with a biting street scene in which four oddly costumed vagrants offer an
stains of humanity in that achingly slow Butoh style which gives you time to recite all your sins and the train timetable twice over before it gets on to the next tableau.
Much less intense was the entertainment offered by Les Acrostiches, a trio who can hardly be called mime artists since they talked incessantly. Like The Red Zone, this clearly draws on street juggling and tumbling; but unlike the Russian show it is a simple celebration of their marvellous physical skills, couched in a comic patter that lightly sends up the group's Frenchness.
Some of what they do, especially in their equili-
brism (one of them sings a tango while balancing upside down on alternate hands), goes beyond the athletic stunt into a Monty Python world. Yet Les Acrostiches belong in the street outside a nice restaurant — or, muzzled, in Alegria — while Derevo belong in basements or dark alleys, or within the covers of a grimy samizdat pamphlet.
Derevo are touring until Feb 4 (information: 0181 348 0203)
To the beginning...
Derevo; Les Acrostiches
Purcell Room
unhinged "act" of inept juggling with street debris, while one of them bashes a tin drum to summon us and hide any mistakes.
The madness appears to be an ironic disguise, and before long these Poor Toms, with their whitened skinny bodies and hollow eye-sockets, reappear in haunting light as foetuses or prisoners in cells, writhing and fighting mess-ily in primeval slime.
The hour's progression has a claustrophobic Russian force to it, but lays on its warning about the inborn