Derevo, Once

Review in Issue 10-3 | Autumn 1998

And they say Russians don’t have a sense of humour! Derevo are a concrete testament to the contrary. Once is both a charming and disturbing tale of unrequited love, rivalry, injustice and fate with an unbelievably strong cast. The strict discipline and skill of the six shaven-headed performers is apparent throughout. All characterisations are executed with the utmost precision. In a world that resembles a bizarre combination of the art of M.C. Escher and the set of a provincial pantomime, the company dance, totter, gambol and clown with a mix of rigid structure and crazy fun.

Rarely have I seen a performance which alternately has me rolling in the aisles with hilarity and weeping at the cruelty of humanity. These extremes are reflected in a clever use of object animation as well: from a tiny ship which bobs up and down in a seascape painting, to an alarming wooden head on wheels, which careers out of the smoke with fire in its eyes, and a two-headed parrot on stilts which emerges from the upstage doors, like a macabre kind of cuckoo clock.

The company works impeccably as an ensemble, yet one’s heart is invariably captured by Anton Anton Adasinsky‚Äôs spurned and dejected suitor, in janitor’s overalls and yellow shoes with a long, hooked, red nose. As a simple clown he has the skill to illicit gut-wrenching emotions. I only hope that the company do not allow the progress of theatrical technology and gimmicks to overshadow their simple strength; which is the clown characters that evoke laughter and tears side by side, and stay with you forever.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-3
p. 21