[ forums ]

Giant leaps


It has become almost a Fringe cliché to praise Derevo, the Russian “anti-clowns”, to the skies. But once again, with the beautifully conceived Islands In The Stream, these extraordinary performers take wordless physical theatre to previously unimagined heights.

The piece, a dream-like flux of images that drift tantalisingly in and out of view and imprint on the mind for days, has nothing to do with the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers song of the same name, but everything to do with the sea, and all who sail on her.

Perky sailors with technicolor smiles bob in on invisible waves; girls dressed as buoys float on the surf; horrible humpback creatures crawl along the ocean floor; an omnipresent figure in a greatcoat (man or God: you decide) conducts the elements, blowing violent storms from a trombone.

With this shimmering, near-cinematic vision, Derevo give us a sea that is beautiful and cruel all at once: like a picture postcard of Day-Glo beach scenes with a dark, imposing message scrawled on the back. Uniformly shorn of hair and with rock-hard bodies that, like the late Bruce Lee, should make them too fit to live, Derevo are like some order of devoted performance monks. As ever, we are not worthy.

From the vast sweep of the sea, Loft narrows the focus to one man’s battle with himself – and his own video image. This is a favourite ploy for Toni Mira of Nats Nus Dansa, a company which employs the technology with a good deal more finesse than most who take the multi-media route.

In this intense solo, the deeply charismatic Mira is confined to a rectangular-shaped pool of light with just a chair and table, a packet of biscuits he can’t open and his video doppelgänger for company. Prowling the limits of his space, he seems unable to slip out of the introspection that solo living can bring.

At times, uncomfortable as it is, we are right there with him in his lonely loft. His mature, understated dance style is a joy; his acting talent (he is a regular on Catalan television) confirmed as he addresses his audience on subjects as banal as replacing batteries in a CD player.

At other junctures he loses us. Some of this may be due to first- night technical glitches. But Loft never quite electrifies the way the company’s triumphant Ful did last year.

Also at the dancier end of Aurora Nova’s multi-hued spectrum, is Czech/Italian company Déjà Donné’s There Where We Were. Performed by a sweat-drenched trio, whose drama is heightened with the highly original use of sharply punctuated martial arts-style breathing and t’ai chi arms, this is one of those shows that creeps up by stealth, then punches you slap-bang in the gut.

Based round a love triangle – or is it a friendship wrecked by a love affair? – this tightly-wrought, muscular piece, with its undercurrent of violence, is no easy option. But as a study of the way obsessive love can wring the very life from us, this is astonishing, heart-stopping stuff.

If the very thought has you reaching for the razor blades, let me urge you instead towards Ricardo Garcia Y La Familia Flamenco with their self-explanatory show titled Flamenco Flamenco!

This show is listed in the Fringe programme’s music section. But for those who love the strut and flounce of flamenco, as well as the blistering guitar and drums provided here by the jovial Garcia brothers, this is some of the most uplifting, joyous dance you’ll see at the Fringe.

17 August 2003

Original version
Back to the beginning...