First Night: Seven years on it's even better

`Street of Crocodiles' Theatre de Complicite Queen's Theatre london

IT'S NEARLY seven years now since Theatre de Complicite's Street of Crocodiles began life in The Cottesloe and took the breath away with those stupendous opening images.

Figures from the story's past hatch out of crates of books or emerge, splitting plumes of water, from tin baths. A man walks down a brick wall at the back of the stage so that we seem to be getting an aerial view of a saunter along a moonlit street. "Is that abseiling or magic?" asked my 11-year-old assistant, as we watched this wondrously inventive and moving revival. We both agreed that the more perceptive answer would be "magic".

The piece works even better in the current larger space, the sheer height of the stage creating a brooding shadowy top layer over this phantasmagoric plunge into the creative imagination of Bruno Schulz, the Polish-Jewish author, shot dead by an SS agent in 1942, whose weird stories are the launchpad for the show.

Looking at my old review, I found I concentrated mostly on the earlier sections of this interval-free, expressionist, physical-theatre event. Perhaps because I was viewing it in the company of an impressionable child, I was more bowled over this time by the harrowing later stages, scored against searingly bitter-sweet and agonised string music.

The sinister sound of a patrolling army punctuates the piece in which the lanky, sensitive Cesar Sarachu once again plays Joseph, the Schulz- surrogate and symbol of the lone author at bay in a dark, totalitarian regime.

My companion said that much of it reminded her of Alice in Wonderland. If with a sadder undertow.

There's the marvellous final sequence when, after being shot, Joseph strips down to his undershorts and is passed tenderly, like a tiny baby, down the row of his family. A piercing image of the prematurity of that loss.

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