DANCE & PHYSICAL
4 stars ****
Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)
THEIR STYLE may not have changed much, over the last 15 years; the small ensemble of dancers with shaven heads, the predominance of austere, clerical black in the costumes. Yet still there’s no escaping the dazzling visual boldness and imagination of the Russian-born and Dresden-based physical theatre company Derevo, and its astonishing leader and director, Anton Adasinsky.
Their latest show is called Mephisto Waltz, which leads us to expect both a dance of death, and some sense of a Faustian bargain with a subtle devil; and both of those strands are present, in a torrent of imagery that seems like a fierce, ironic history of mankind, ranging from war and flower-garlanded victory, through an age of faith, to a series of confrontations with death, in the shape of the grim reaper, the modern hospital bed, or a sober and spine-shuddering vision of melting ice and environmental collapse, followed by a final brief grab at the tattered garment of the flesh.
At times, this latest devised work – by Adasinsky, his four other dancers, and a creative team led by musician Daniel Williams and designer Elena Yarovaya – seems short of discipline, overstuffed with ideas both chilling and deliberately absurd, and blessed with at least three endings, the second-last of which, about ten minutes from the end, is by far the strongest. Yet at its best – as in Adasinsky’s first appearance as an almost-naked warrior struggling in mud, or in the recurring ensemble waltz that gives the show its title – it contains a quality of movement that takes the breath away, driven by a sweeping classical score that ranges from Holst’s Planet Suite to complex Danube waltzes; and in doomed fields of sunflowers, in its grotesque humour, or in magnificently-lit moments of strange pity and stillness, it prints images on the mind that disturb and thrill, and will linger for ever.
Until 27 August