UNCLE WOLODJA
Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh
August, 2002

** Imaginative, complex but ultimately rather too gentle mime

Alexej Merkuchev's character is a dreamer who never quite engages with the real world. He never fully engages us either, alas.

I think it was Merkuchev who, in one of Russian clown/mime troupe Derevo's shows a few years ago, came through the audience, encouraged me to kick his backside, and was delighted when I wrote it up as an act of practical criticism. That's his kind of spirit: affable, open, sometimes poignant but lacking in the hard edge that might define his work more.

Much of his show uses standard mime gestures: the big smile and index finger held up when an idea strikes him, for instance. But not many conventional mimes would roll a joint from the leaves of their houseplant, then hallucinate a giant firefly and suffer an attack of the munchies. And his set is ingenious, with animals whizzing across the stage on elastic and a cardboard radio whose innards he can rip out. But it's only at a few moments that the sparks fly literally so, when he appears to perform an operation on a small clockwork dog with a large rotary saw.

Merkuchev is also performing a ten-minute free show in a makeshift elevator, set in the street outside St Stephen's, Theatre Workshop's partner venue in the Aurora Nova programme of European theatre and dance.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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