Komedia @ Southside, Edinburgh
August, 2000

One of the saddest consequences, at this time of year, of the collapse of the Soviet bloc is that eastern European companies can no longer afford to bring massively casted productions to Edinburgh. Polish director Janusz Wisniewski's shows here in 1985 and 1990 changed my life and those of many others; now, Do-Theatre of St Petersburg and Fabrik Potsdam between them muster a mere five performers. But what wonders they work with those five.

Seen all too briefly on last year's Fringe, Hopeless Games is a wordless physical theatre/dance piece augmented with video material, in which a selection of clowns, misfits and other shades haunt a derelict railway station. They play Russian roulette, dance pas de deux and quartets by turns comical and heartbreaking, and even seem at one point to be hanging themselves from huge blue balloons.

This is an evocative and expressionistic rather than a narrative or linear piece; spectators can construct their own stories about the relationships being depicted here within each group, as the quintet of performers repeatedly change guises and moods. It is, though, an immensely beautiful and affecting piece of work which entirely deserves this return visit enabling it to be seen by those who blinked and missed it last year.

Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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