Purcell Room, London

Dance review: Circle of Eleven - Hang on to your hats – if you can

Take one room, spin it through 90 degrees and let a gravity-defying Frenchman loose in it. Then prepare to be amazed

Aman is in a box. But this isn't one of those air-drawn, measured-in-handspans boxes that dog the popular perception of mime – the London International Mime Festival was shot of those long ago. This is a box-shaped room with proper walls, and imaginary only by association.

Which is to say that, next to the box-shaped room, on the platform of the Southbank's Purcell Room, is a screen projecting real-time video of the box-shaped room turned through 90 degrees. (If this reads like a spatial reasoning test, then yes, in a way it is.)

Thus when lanky Frenchman William Bonnet lies on the floor in the room on the right, in the room on the left he appears to be leaning against the wall. And when he does a benchpress with his feet pushed against the real wall on the right, his doppelgänger appears to be standing up checking for damp on the wall on the left. So little strain is apparent in the increasingly outlandish poses Bonnet adopts that the 90-degree screen version of them looks not just plausible, but comically casual.

Circle of Eleven is the typically discombobulating name of this company of one, directed by the French-Canadian Daniel Brière using an original idea from the German gymnast Tobias Wegner. Like many of the Mime Festival's finds, it's a simple idea with sophisticated effects. For if the concept sounds calculating, the character you see before you is anything but, cheerfully applying himself to survival in a world of topsy-turvy gravitational laws.

In his empty digs, soon tiring of trying to stop his tie dangling at the wrong angle (but only wrong in one version), he finds chalk and draws himself a cosy sitting room, with furniture, a dozing cat, and table set for two, all sketched at a 90-degree angle, so that when he settles on the chair horizontally, it looks upright in the rotated image. A radio cues some fine physical comedy as Bonnet responds to the sounds that emerge, a piano waltz prompting a grand jeté from which he doesn't descend, Frank Sinatra singing "I've Got the World on a String" bringing a blast of stylish hoofing.

So far, so much fun. But like so many simple ideas, this one runs its course too soon. Once the hapless bachelor has upset the goldfish bowl and flooded the room, narrative goes out of the window and the ensuing Finding Nemo-style underwater graphic fantasy loses all dramatic tension, even while accompanied by the stirring climax of Swan Lake. When the focus returns to the man in his once-more empty room, the projection now delayed so that he appears haunted by his shadow, we no longer give a fig what happens to him. The golden thread of human empathy has snapped.

The lauded Russian outfit Derevo (Purcell Room, London) doesn't need that kind of audience connection. Drawing on the company's anarchic mix of dance, Dada and clowning, Harlekin gives a platform to a stock figure to be kept at arm's length. Harlequin (the forerunner of Mr Punch), has always been a trickster and a braggart prone to violence, so when the lumbering puppetmeister at the start of this show-within-a-show gets his finger bitten by a 12-inch Harlequin string puppet, it's par for the course.

The ensuing action focuses on Harlequin as embodied by the mesmerising Anton Adassinsky, whose jerky, jittery movements never let you forget his puppet origins, even while his wordless expressive artistry shows him as Everyman with a psychotic bent. Elena Yarovaya, as the woman who, literally, steals her lover's heart in a gruesome scene involving saws, spouts of ketchup and a red pepper – is just as arresting. The single lyrical, innocent sequence in the show, as Harlequin tries to woo Pieretta from a bedroom window, is atypically sweet.

The rulebook torn up long ago, the work lurches in tone and pace, introducing new characters at random. Suddenly Yarovaya is no longer the love-object Pieretta, but an organ-grinder's monkey, a weird, servile, scratchy little creature, potential material for bad dreams. As for Harlequin, sometimes he just sits, beautifully lit, for our contemplation. Behold a sinner and survivor, Derevo seems to be saying. For all its enervating slowness, this is theatre that seeps under your skin.

'Circle of Eleven', Purcell Room (0844 875 0073) to Tue. The London International Mime Festival continues at various venues until 27 Jan (www.mimelondon.com)

Critic's Choice

As the Royal Opera rehearses a new production of Eugene Onegin next month, the Royal Ballet revives John Cranko's three-act dance drama Onegin, likewise based on Pushkin's narrative poem. It's a riveting story of obsession, cruelty, sexual power and comeuppance, offering four fine leading roles and music by Tchaikov- sky. Cranko's 1969 choreography is powerfully expressionistic, the storytelling clear. In short: there's no better introduction to ballet. At the Royal Opera House till 8 Feb.

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
books
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes