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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Fringe reviews: Derevo

Islands in the Stream is a unique production of physical theatre but fails to communicate its message.

by Helena Thompson in Edinburgh

Derevo's plot is thin on the ground

Like the best of cults, St Petersburg's most successful theatrical export are completely unique.

But like the worst, Derevo's lust for the original can lead to confusion.

The latest offering from the Russian troupe is a journey that tests these strengths and weaknesses to the full.

No small task, Islands in the Stream strives simultaneously to criticise our exploitation of the world's resources and to make fun of human fallibility.

But the company lauded for productions such as Once La Divina Commedia seem to have inhaled more than even they can swallow.

Between the depiction of youthful seaside holidays and the imagery of adolescence at sea, the tale begs for explanation from the start.


With no narrative to speak of, even the prettiest of stage images feels underdeveloped, and the visual ingenuity just highlights a hole where the plot should be.

Failure might be forgivable were the company less intent on making a political statement.

For what could have been portentous ends up pretentious in this ultimately frustrating look at man and water.

Derevo's knack for creating shows best enjoyed as all-encompassing events takes a back seat, and fans expecting the trademark cheeky audience interaction will be disappointed.

The group class themselves as dance rather than theatre, but would do well to look at how plays tell their stories.

Islands in the Stream tries very hard to say many things but ultimately, it is impossible to tell what the show is about.

Derevo - Islands In The Stream is at St Stephens until 25 August.

The Argument - A Family Portrait

Theatre O's ingenious new show turns a critical eye on contemporary values.

The company behind the groundbreaking hit Three Dark Tales explores modern life's self-destructiveness with an admirable lightness of touch.

And, as usual, their work is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Argument
The play is an engaging piece of theatre
The Argument focuses on the Strongs, a family under pressure, in a tale spanning 30 years.

A luscious set, crammed with memorabilia, points to the show's preoccupation with the difficulty of living in the present.

No-one on stage can own their destiny, and the characters are at their most engaging when struggling to piece together some fragmented sense of autonomy.

Edward Strong is a bereaved ophthalmologist in the autumn of his years for whom the future is a tough dream to believe in.

Daughter Roberta's heart-to-heart with her dead mother's voice is particularly poignant, as is the way Young Eric's fear of failing his parents colours our experience of his first job interview.

The psychological implications of the seemingly mundane makes this a moving piece of theatre.

Careful mime work, atmospheric gramophone music and ghostly voiceovers make this show a truly original experience.

Absurdist yet accessible, their study in how we hurt the ones we love is a bittersweet delight.

The Argument - A Family Portrait, is at the Assembly Rooms until 25 August.


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