EVENING NEWS (UK) august 22, 2002
Struan Mackenzie It’s all white on the night as Russians get physical
White Side Story, *****
ATTEMPTING to explain why Russian physical theatre troupe Comic Trust’s show is wonderful seems like a futile gesture. It just is. Go watch it. That is all.
Damn! If an account must be offered then I suppose we should begin with the spectacular set design of a tiny white mediaeval kingdom which slowly morphs into the actors. The skill and beauty with which this opening salvo is staged let us know that we are in for an utterly absorbing, magical piece of performance art to follow.
Expertly told through dance, mime and music in addition to an array of masks, costumes and props, the three-strong collective’s production captivates the audience’s attention and doesn’t let it wander for a second throughout the hour-plus duration.
The sharp contrasts between the mystical kingdom’s crotchety old White Queen and naïve young princess are brilliantly brought to life by Nataliya Fisson. Her equally adept accomplices, Nikolay Kychev and Igor Sladkevich, portray a variety of White Fools whose antics and buffoonery seek to betray the absurdities of the cold White Queen’s desperate need to hand on to power.
The players’ exaggerated face-masks lend the fairy-tale exposition an innocent, childish feel, white the simple yet stunning use of props merely adds to the enchanting aura. In addition, the musical backdrop is simply beautiful.
The exact details of the plot remain tantalizingly open to interpretation, but the allure here is in the overall mood created, and failure to completely grasp what is going on only adds to the excitement of watching it unfold. It’s unlikely any two people will come away with an identical interpretation.
If there is any criticism to be leveled towards all this glorious Russian excess, it is that they perhaps over-egg the pudding just a touch towards the end. But if you had put in the soul, passion and hard graft that this production clearly necessitated, then you probably wouldn’t want to end it either.
Director Vadim Fisson can take a bow; he and his actors have created one of the most perplexing, genre-busting and just plain nuts pieces of theatre ever to grace the Fringe.
Run ends Monday