Harlekin, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London
Thursday 17 January 2013
Harlequin is traditionally an agile comic character, fast and acrobatic. Russian theatre troupe Derevo have no shortage of physical skill, but it’s stretched out to painful slowness.
The three shaven-headed clowns tell tragic-comic stories with such arch emphasis that even the gory bits look mannered.
Founded by lead performer Anton Adassinsky in 1988, Derevo established themselves as darlings of the Edinburgh Fringe, regularly winning awards at the festival. They come to London as part of the London International Mime Festival, performing in the Linbury rather than the often ad hoc venues of Edinburgh.
A padded, false-bearded showman prods the audience as we come in, running around the theatre and speaking to the crowd. The stage is hidden by a curtain, mended in diamond patterns that suggest the patched origins of the traditional harlequin costume. When the show starts, we see dancers moving in shadow, a tutu’d woman in a tall hat and a man with a sword. As they dance, their shadows grow and shrink, looming over each other until he kills her and them himself. It’s cleverly staged, simple and effective.
In front of the curtain, they stage long, yearning scenes. Adassinsky makes eyes at the oblivious Elena Yarovaya. He keeps taking off her hat, making her scream each time. Standing in two window frames, they wave or hold conversations in mime. When one throws something, it reappears in the other’s window – but the timing isn’t quite sharp enough, blurring the joke.
Some of the imagery is gruesome. Adassinsky seems to pull a scarlet pepper out of his own bloody chest; Yarovaya thoughtfully bites into it. We see other pepper-hearts in spotlights, each framed by a crown. Yarovaya returns as a nurse, stitching up Adassinsky’s chest, with much squirting of blood and syringes. I like the moment when Yarovaya realises she’s lost her scissors and has to bite off the thread, but the scene is overextended.
The show touches on the harlequin’s long and varied history, from commedia dell’arte to the Ballets Russes retelling of Petrushka. The references are deft, but Derevo’s own harlequinade doesn’t come to life. The knowing performance style works best in a sequence for a hurdy-gurdyist and his monkey. Adassinsky keeps prodding Yarovaya to turn for the audience; they cut between false smiles for their public, and seething resentment to each other.
Until 19 January. London International Mime Festival continues until 27 January. www.mimelondon.co.uk
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 4 Zayn Malik on Israel-Gaza: One Direction singer bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine
- 5 'Hello mum, this is going to be hard for you to read ...'
New Netflix releases: The films and TV shows coming August 2014
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Star Wars Episode 7: Simon Pegg hints at disguised role
Guardians of the Galaxy review: A superficial and half-hearted Marvel film
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >