Playing with
Dante's fire

The Scotsman, Monday, 5 August 2002
On a gleaming, black,
revolving stage in the near-
perfect, rough-edged setting
of the Assembly Big Top, off
Raeburn Place, these four
superb performers - and at
the end it's almost
impossible to believe there
have been so few of them -
present a wordless show that
is like a circus of human
dreams and nightmares; not
a version of Dante's Divine
Comedy, but visibly inspired
by the concept of a circle of
hell, in which humanity faces
gruelling trials.

So the show begins with
broad-brush images of
political power and
oppression, a poor scapegoat
led round the circle naked, to

Derevo: La Divina
Assembly Big Top (venue 145)

DEREVO'S first huge hit on
the Edinburgh Fringe was a
show called Once, a fabulous
fairytale that left audiences
breathless and enchanted
Now, this fabulous troupe of
Russian physical theatre
artists - working these days
out of Dresden - returns with
a 90-minute piece that looks
more like a confrontation
with the darkest forces in
life, although it also has its
luminous moments of hope
and peace, its hints of ways
in which those forces can be
beaten back.

journey work better than
others; there's a sense that
some of the material thrown
into this rich, ragged
pageant of a show hardly
adds to its coherence. But the
intensity and boldness of the
visual images, the fantastic
soundscape of bells and song
and rushing flame and
human voices that leads us
through the show, and the
superb energy, concentration
and speed of the
performances, helps to create
a haunting, hugely ambitious
event with a strange
seductive power. Some of
Derevo's images came flying
through my dreams last
night; and already I feel
drawn to go back and see
them again.

Joyce McMillan
Until 26 August

RIGHT: Derevo's wordless
show Is like a circus of
human dreams and

Picture: Walter Neilson
be mocked and flayed. Then
in rapid succession there are
images of innocence coming
to life, of fire, destruction
and rebirth, of a Leonardo-
like God pictured as a great
ram with golden horns, of a
ragged common man
wandering in dark places
where he meets an old witch,
an angel, another blaze of
fire. There's a joker-like
central figure who travels on
through the show, observing,
fighting, conniving; a
moment of peace and beauty
in which the circular stage
becomes a lily pond; a
sudden rush into the art of
theatre, performance,
applause; a moment of
candlelit celebration in
which wine and bread are
shared with the audience; a
final confrontation with
death; and, in a shower of
golden fragments, a peaceful
ascent, perhaps towards

And, of course, some
moments in the dream-

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