At the Riverside Studios,
Hammersmith, the Russian
company Derevo are present-
ing their show La Divina
The audience sit
around a pitch black stage,
until rays of light reveal fig
ures perched aloft, looking
like satanic versions of Mr
Punch Then more darkness,
followed by an irruption of
fiends Two of them scourge a
naked man as he swings from
a tangle of ropes, with a cow
bell tied to his scrotum they
use rods tipped with tongues
of fire There are shrill jungly
noises, indistinct laughter
and a persistent beat of
drums No doubt about it, we
are in the Inferno.

The company consuls of
two men and two women
though masks and shaven
heads often make them look
like near clones They are
mimes, who let their bodies
speak for them as they weave
their way through surreal
transitions It's a form of

dream theatre for which there
has been a vogue in recent
years anyone who has seen
Theatre de Complicate or the
work of Robert Lepage won't
find them a complete novelty
But their vision of hell still
has its own scary power

Then we move on It is hard
to say where, but not, I think,
to Purgatory, and certainly
not to Paradise Instead we
get a pond with unfolding
water lilies, a drunken birth
day party, a ballet scene
which points up the contrast
between front stage passions
and backstage mooching.

The visual tricks have their
charm, and the ballet is very
funny. But there is a slacken
ing of intensity and it is only
at the end that the show
recaptures its full momen
tum A pilgrim clambers
through giant croquet hoops
until he encounters a skele
ton, a figure with golden
ram's horns femes his way
through the air, the final
focus is on an hourglass
Compelling stuff - but it s
less Divine Comedy than
danse macabre

Back to the beginning...
Antony and Cleopatra
Hie Road to Ruin
La Divina Commedia