It's bedlam in the big top
more obviously the antagonistic principles of
Antonin Artaud and his theatre of cruelty.

Their heads shaved, their faces emaciated
and powdered white, their bodies wiry and
often near-naked, the androgynous-looking
cast of four take on the roles of tormentor and
tormented, unleashing a series of spasmodic,
inexplicable scenes.

A man with ram's horns on his head,
metallic bric-a-brac dangling around his
genitalia, is goaded by slicks into the ring by
two liveried female attendants; another rubs
himself with straw; another sobs in the dark,
his spewn-out paper tears lit up by ultraviolet
rays. Large fans drive wind, dust and glittery
detritus across the auditorium; a
cacophonous mixture of applause, drum rolls,
gun fire and church bells assails the ear.

Weird as hell, this show undoubtedly fires
up feelings of irritation at its deliberate
longueurs, but it also stokes sensations of
mortal terror and strange enchantment. I
doubt anything on the Fringe this year will
have such an unearthly, unhinging power.
Until Any 18. Tickets: 0131 226 2428

Dominic Cavendish
Back to the beginning...
Fringe theatre
Derevo: La Divina

ASSEMBLY BiG TOP ______________
ANYONE hoping to escape the madness of the
Edinburgh Fringe by heading for the circus
tent that has tantalisingly materialised on an
unremarkable sports ground near the city
should be warned: come 10pm, it's absolute
bedlam within.

Hailing from St Petersburg, Derevo have
been described as an "anti-down" troupe.
This label fits: their approach is as far from
conventional big-top high jinks as possible.

Director Anton Adassinski delights in the
smell of fear rather than the taste of popcorn
- nightmarish images are his thing.

La Divina Commedia finds Derevo
undertaking their most technically ambitious
and fiendishly opaque spectacle yet. The
ostensible inspiration is Dante, but this
wordless evocation of "inferno" ("purgatorio"
and "paradiso" barely feature) betrays far