Few tears for a clown
JAPANESE Butoh performance of the 1960s was a violent rebellion against the rigid physical vocabulary of classical theatre. Shocking, vulgar and absurd, it displayed the body unglorious 'and made a theatre of the grotesque.
This rebel spirit attracted attention among Soviet artists in the early days of peres-troika. And there is now a distinct sub-genre of Butoh across a strip from Prague to St Petersburg of which the Derevo company were early exponents.
The group's founder member, Anton Adassinsky, works also with the great clown Slava Polunin, and his influence is clearly visible in Red Zone, a show which combines clown theatre with more earnest elements of Butoh-in-spired performance. Opening the London International Mime Festival, Red Zone starts with an extended burlesque of circus clowning; apparently lethal objects are picked up as if for a juggling skit, thrown up in the air and then left to drop on the ground Props fall, apparently haphazardly, off the front of
Purcell Room
nication that, both Butoh and
clown theatre are capable of.

The power of the clown is to persuade the audience to enter into his illusion with him. Even in their motley, Derevo exhibit such ambivalence to, and detachment from their audience, that it is impossible to make the leap of faith far enough into their contorted tragedy to he affected by it.
To the beginning...
the stage and the crescendo is a long sequence of slapstick bottom kicking where the clowns descend into the audience and proffer their rears for an inviting toot. Like the subsequent Butoh sections it is beautifully judged, and the audience is in no doubt that the clowns are absolutely capable of juggling five pickaxes should they choose to.
The show is pitched from this world of bright plasticky chaos into a long stretch of near total darkness through which sexless, naked figures writhe in dull licks of red and green light. Moments of the sublime drop occasionally into this protean world, interspersed with tiny, nasty snatches of narrative; apocalyptic brides, a chain of hierarchical violence and a man who stabs his distended heart as it hangs above the stage.
Red Zone is slick, faultlessly produced and performed, but has lost — possibly because of its Purcell Room location — the charged, visceral commu-