Once...

Russian Company Derevo’s Once takes place early in the morning by Fringe standards and many of the audience members at the George Square Theatre might have been wondering whether they’d woken up yet. The show follows the fluid logic of an unsettling dream: one in which zombies, Mexican Banditos and eight foot tall two-headed pierrots wander unaccountably across the stage and where a simple length of pipe can become a paddle, a walking stick and a functioning gun in quick succession. The show dives ever deeper the abyss of its own subconscious.

The show’s effectiveness depends on whether you can stomach its deliberate unruliness

There is a plot, of sorts, which occasionally bubbles into striking lucidity amongst all the chaos. This involves company founder Anton Adasinsky’s lowly, street-sweeping clown, a sort of predecessor to Chaplin’s tramp, and his desperately adoration of a melancholic Pierette-waitress (Elena Yaravoya). He is competes for her affections with a sinister Svengali figure in a tailcoat. More than anything, however, the show aims to capture a mood- of the turbulence and baffling, uninterpretable nature of intense love, of its failure to yield into a coherent identity, place or time.

While there is no doubting the quality of the performances - Adasinsky is a world renowned clown and the expressive depth of the strangely ageless Yaravoya’s face is breathtaking - the show’s effectiveness depends on whether you can stomach its deliberate unruliness, the rush of images which rarely settle down or explain themselves. The manic eclecticism is visible within the design influences that are legible in the show: surrealist art, silent cinema and even modern science fiction all compete amongst each other, and this zaniness may prove too much for some.

The chaotic sensibility also acts, frustratingly, to puncture some charming moments of poised tranquility in which the physical skill of the performers finds its richest expression. The clown’s bashful, stuttering advances towards his lover, Yaravoya’s intense eyes gazing wistfully at us, or what looked like the beginnings of a silent dance lesson are all interrupted and swallowed up by noise and confusion. More of these simpler, tender moments would have made this already interesting show soar.

Reviews by Joe Spence

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Multi award-winning physical theatre company Derevo bring their sold out hit (Fringe First, Herald Angel), a groundbreaking masterpiece of love, longing and laughter. On one rainy day, the lightning of love struck their hearts. The story starts rolling through laughter and tears, past the pessimistic Cupido, the elegant evil, past silly death to the unknown end... A fairy tale dedicated to the eternal child living in us all. 'Bravo, Derevo, for reminding us that it's better to be heartbroken than heartless' (Herald). 'Absolutely stunning... the best of the best' (Scotsman). 'A love song to your soul' (List).