HARLEKIN, Derevo: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33): 04 – 30 Aug 2010: 1300 hrs .
0131 556 6550.
Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes no interval.
Review: Mark Courtice 26th August 2010.
Commedia dell’arte strikes again.
Given that Commedia Dell’ Arte is the wellspring from which much of European theatre and almost all of comedy comes it’s disappointing that modern versions are almost inevitably heavy handed and unfunny.
You might expect Derevo to avoid the curse. For several years this company born in Russia and now based in Germany, have been showing the Fringe the benefits of rigorous technique, an European aesthetic and brilliant stagecraft.
Sadly here despite some wonderful moments it’s all a bit charmless and glum.
The basic story is that of Harlequin and his hopeless love for Columbine. There is a ring-master, and, obscurely, a monkey. Harlequin’s wooing includes gifts and even going off to fight returning with a chest full of medals. There is death and rebirth – a feature of most early theatre. Harlequin is not always very nice to the monkey.
Images sometimes astound, like a moment when Harlequin comes downstage bowed down under a great girder-like arrow; fabulous to look at, but its meaning is obscure, and it leads to nothing as it’s followed by the curtain call. Good bits outstay their welcome by being repeated, sometimes in miniature.
The performances are precise, well observed (the monkey for example is beautifully done) and strangely un-involving. The pace is measured with little variation. The played score is scratchy and austere, mixing low-tech acoustic with unvoiced sounds. There is very loud playback of opera and other eclectically chosen music.
There is imagination and artistry aplenty here, there is knowledge of and respect for theatre’s deepest roots; but there’s no lightness of touch, very few laughs and not much fun.
Idea, Conception Anton Adasinsky & DEREVO
Played by Anton Adasinsky, Elena Yarovaya, Anna Budanova
Sound design Daniel Williams
Light Igor Fomin
Stage & props Andrey Bobylev
Costumes Anna Frumson