Cast adrift on a tide of dreams

All aboard for a highly evocative nautical fantasy - with not a word to be heard
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Derevowas formed in St Petersburg in 1988. Anton Adassinski is the founder and artistic director. He and three other members at Derevo's heart, Elena Yarovaya, Tatiana Khabarova and Oleg Zhukovsky, make up a company that lives and breathes its art.

Derevowas formed in St Petersburg in 1988. Anton Adassinski is the founder and artistic director. He and three other members at Derevo's heart, Elena Yarovaya, Tatiana Khabarova and Oleg Zhukovsky, make up a company that lives and breathes its art.

Based in Dresden, Germany, Derevo's work is a mixture of mime, dance and theatre. The company has also mounted photographic exhibitions and produced two CDs of music and a feature film, South. Border, as well as various stage pieces and site-specific projects, since it began 16 years ago. "We prefer to describe ourselves as an 'arts group'," says Chester Mueller, Derevo's manager. "We have always wanted to escape the limitations of what theatre usually means."

La Divina Commedia was shown at Edinburgh Festival in 2002, along with screenings of the company's feature film. Islands In The Stream went to Edinburgh last year, and is now returning to London's Riverside Studios. And this year, Devero will present Reflection - a solo piece by one of the Derevo actresses, Tatiana Khabarova.

Describing how the company members met in 1988, Adassinski says, "It was at a time when there was a cultural explosion in Russia. It was a meeting between friends, as rock'n'roll bands often meet, but what brought us together was that we all knew what we didn't want. We didn't want to speak on stage. We wanted non-verbal theatre," he says.

Adassinski is speaking to me from Hungary, where Derevo are performing La Divina Commedia in a tent in Budapest. They are also busy rehearsing with a Hungarian dance company for a site-specific piece to celebrate Hungary joining the European Union on 1 May.

"When Derevo started, we were based in an old Communist dom kultury [house of culture], where cultural activities were held for young people," says Adassinski. The company then moved to Prague, Amsterdam, Italy, and back to Russia before landing in Dresden. Between 1998-2003, they worked in a run-down ammunition factory. They have now moved to a beautiful building, Festspielhaus Hellerau, originally built for dance in the early 20th century, then used by the military before becoming Derevo's headquarters.

Islands in the Stream combines comedy and mystery to conjure the wonder of the ocean. "It is about our romantic dreams. As a child we all have dreams, but we are ashamed to tell our parents. Then when we are older, we have lost our dreams, and it is all too late," says Adassinski, whose inspiration for the show was Ernest Hemingway's novel of the same name.

Mueller adds: "What Derevo do is to build a picture. With different images, we work very much with the emotions. How the content is interpreted is up to the imagination of the audience. It will be different for every single person."

'Islands in the Stream' Riverside Studios, London W6, 15-29 May (020-8237 1111)

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