Last Clown on Earth

Derevo are a legend. This is not clowning Coco-style, but dark, surreal and dreamlike with an apocalyptic vision tempered by absurd humour and heart-wringing moments of pathos. The company have been coming to the Edinburgh Fringe for 20 years and their latest show, Last Clown On Earth is as weird and magical as word of mouth promised. Dresden-based, Anton Adassinski, who founded the company in Saint Petersburg in 1988, has declared that he has at last grown-up and become a superman for this is the first time he has a solo show.

No other show in the Edinburgh Fringe will run you through the whole gamut of emotions like this one

Shaven-headed, gaunt, dressed in rags, Adassinski makes a poor specimen for a hero, but miming putting on Superman gear and toting an imaginary laser gun, he tries to break through an invisible wall and fails, only to find that divesting himself of all this gear, he can enter a doorway, just as an ordinary man. In fact, he becomes a sort of Everyman on a journey through chaos as the sun explodes and silver fragments fall from the sky.

Aided by expressive sound effects and iconic moments of stunning visual imagery, (which, though often enigmatic, will stay in your mind) Adassinski stumbles into one surreal happening after another, sometimes in the form of weird, inexplicable objects on stage, ( my favourite is the red, upside-down sculptured baby’s legs worn as a hat) and also graphics reminiscent of Dadaist art on a screen at the back with which he interacts. At one point, he mimes a fluttering bird in his hands which is thrown into the screen and turns into thousands of tiny upside-down men in black and white check suits, mirroring the same suit that Adassinski now wears. At another point, he appears to run into the screen, up the graphics of stairs to encounter God and the Devil, no longer graphics, but filmed actors blown-up like giants, in rather scruffy, stereotypical costumes, all the more funny for it. Remonstrating with God, it is clear, that Adassinski is blaming him for the mess the world is in.

The scenes with God and the Devil are sheer pantomime and the comedic enactment of the Garden of Eden is hilarious. Adassinski’s pouting, simpering Eve is a delight as is his Adam who is more interested in admiring his own muscles but Adassinski’s own interpretation of the murderous consequences are grim. As each scene or image morphs unexpectedly into another, the show becomes darker and darker. Horrific images such as a film of a man with a bloody brain exposed, another with black gunk dripping from his nose are randomly alternated with an enormous red balloon-like object that hangs from Adassinski’s nose but end up thrown into the audience, as do many more objects. Beware if you choose to sit in the front row.

The show ends with a similar swerve from the ridiculous; an ironic portrait of a rich man obsessed with his red car which he can only squat in as it’s so small, to a sudden switch to the theme of death. For all his riches, the millionaire is unhappy for he must die. This is the nearest to a political critique we get for the show is more about the elemental facts of common humanity. The resulting funeral procession with coffin is only the prelude to a cataclysmic ending. No more humour, but a shocking, drawn-out end with full, devastating sound effects and visuals, to rival a Wagnerian opera’s end of the world which left the audience shaken. No other show in the Edinburgh Fringe will run you through the whole gamut of emotions like this one, with such inventive, surprising and explosive imagery that you enter another world, enigmatic, elusive but still recognisably our own.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

Celebrating 20 years since their Fringe debut, multi award-winning Russian physical theatre company Derevo return with their latest masterpiece. Through mime, butoh and spectacular visuals and sound, a deeply fallen and pushed around Anton Adasinky immortalises the cosmic figure of the clown, full of inner joy yet trapped in a never ending cycle of self-sacrifice and rebirth. Forever – with a smile. 'Physical theatre at its most daring and spectacular. Beguiling and mystifying in equal measure' (Metro). 'Their dreamlike visions are haunting... This ensemble's intensity and ragged beauty grip like a vice' (Independent on Sunday).