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





 Sarah Willcocks  Comic-Trust. White Side Story


             As flyers go, a counterfeit  20 pounds note is among the more impressive of thousands littering the Royal Mile but it is as original and imaginative as the Russian company it promotes. With their unique brand of visual comedy, Comic Trust return to the Fringe with a treat of a show. It is a fairytale aimed at kids but,  if the guffaws from one beefy, tattooed Scotsman are anything to go by, lampooning adults as well. The surly, spoilt queen with her mugshot on the flyer is the mean monarch of a mystical white kingdom. Part clowning, part panto, the darkly comic tale spins between buffoonery and violence.

            The three performers have brought loads of ingenuity creating a bizarre fantasy world that rains bubbles and where white knights breath fire. Natalia Fisson brings endless appeal to her carrot-topped, pot-bellied princess with one eye on the crown and the other on a filthy punk rocker. With grotesque mace-up the trio are so expressive – a gamut of emotions and motives are ably conveyed – it is as if they have faces of putty. Unable to speak a word of English, they transcend language barriers and prove that St Petersburg’s loss is Edinburgh’s gain.


Rating Guide
Drams: None = Unmissable

               \_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ 
= Unwatchable


Comic Trust - White Side Story


Drams None, but give the performers a celebratory magnum of champers
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (14)
Address 5/2 Teviot Square
Reviewer Jackie Fletcher

      I've seen good shows on the fringe and praised some of them to the sky, but White Side Story is undoubtedly the most engaging and compelling one-and-a-half hours I've spent in a theatre this year. It is an absolute and utter delight from beginning to end. Three clowns from St Petersburgh enact the tale of a wicked queen and her lust for power with such verve, such joy and a staggering amount of invention reminding me what clowning is really all about.
      Maybe, I'm just a big kid! But you don't need to be a kid to like the Marx Brothers. It seems that since our Music Hall tradition died out we have relegated our clowns to comic turns with pratt-falls and buckets of water in between the acrobats and the animals in the circus. Happily, in Russia the true clown tradition is as vibrant as it ever was, as anyone who saw Slava's Snowshow a few years ago will remember. These people embody the mediaeval cabotin that Meyerhold drew on, and the guillame that inspired Dario Fo. It is a carnivalesque tradition of popular comic satire dating back to the Middle Ages. But we have lost it in favour of stand-up comedians.
      Comic Trust pull out all the stops and go for every grain of theatricality that they can milk from their simple tale. It is an aesthetic spectacle: it is movement, mime, fabulously grotesque costumes, lighting, sound, music, glitter and bubbles all blended together with so much fun that I was laughing out loud throughout.  Even wearing half masks, the range of their facial expressions, varying from the utterly absurd to the truly tragic, gave this show a fine human dimension. Their skill is just incredible.
      Right from the beginning they play with the audience and at the end we are given a choice: we can vote for a comic or a tragic ending. But even then there are still surprises in store.  Even their curtain call was a roller coaster of energetic joy. These people love their work and their audiences. I've run out of superlatives to describe it. It just twists and turns and presents you with the unexpected as they do quick costume changes and engross us with yet another comic character. Go and enjoy! And Comic Trust, will you please come back next year.I want MORE!
Until 25 Aug (not 20)

© Jackie Fletcher 14 August 2002

White Side Story


***** Enticing for all! 14 Aug 2002
reviewer: John Kut   country: United Kingdom

White Side Story is a remarkable production which skillfully weaves together an enjoyable narrative with wonderous use of modern theatre technology (smoke, lighting, sound and bubbles to say the least!). The interaction of the cast with the audience is refreshingly bold. This is truly a work of art which can be enjoyed on so many levels by all ages.


***** Gift for young and old alike 07 Aug 2002
reviewer: Thomas Hird   country: United States

An inventive fairy tale world is created here. The princess yearns for something beyond a yawn, finds it, and then loses it (or does she?). The Queen and guards are a hoot. Gifts rain on the audience. Dare to sit in the aisle or better yet the front rows. Take the kids, no words to confuse them, just pure communication. The talent and energy will enthrall you. I wonder what the rehearsals were like? Actors you will be jealous, designers wistful.





DAILY MAIL (UK) August 17, 2002


Festival Five



For parents, finding a children’s show that does not bore grownups rigid is not always easy. This Russian fairytale from the St Petersburg Theatre Company solves the problem. Set in a White Kingdom ruled by a wicked White Queen it involves three White Clowns who act out the story in dance, mime and music.




Thursday August 15, 2002


Outspoken stars unusually silent on play


…Hollywood stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins spent one of their first nights in Scotland watching a bizarre stage show featuring three Russian mime artists.

            The couple were accompanied by a minded, but slipped in unnoticed to watch White Side Story by the St Petersburg Theatre Company "Comic-Trust".





The GUARDIAN (UK) August 19, 2002




White Side Story

The story of a White Kingdom, a White Queen and three White Clowns told in dance mime and music.




Stunning. Simply the best I’ve seen so far. Emotion from joy to despair without words and great fun.



Visually stunning. By turns mystifying, moving & hilarious. Y? U’ve never seen anything like it before. Not to be missed!




THREE WEEKS (UK) August 22, 2002


Comic-Trust. White Side Story ****

  The Evil Snow Queen, her not so trusty fools, a beautiful princess and her comfortable mules. This play may not elude the same poetic tones and compact deftness as that wonderful piece of rhyming, but it nonetheless retains the same ingenious eloquence and use of rather spectacularly large shoes.  Two men, one lady and a lot of fairy liquid bubbles mime, dance, swim, take party boats, duel and drum their way through computer games, chaucer-esque jousting tournaments and Macbeth’s death wish. Bizarre it may be but it is visually stunning, with incredible costume, setting and animated faces.


LE FIGARO  (Franse) June 25, 2001
Marion Thébaud  Russian-Style Clownery  
Pleasant Surprises from Comedians’ Spring.

Russians are more alive than ever in Comedians’ Spring. This festival held at the end of the month in Montpellier marked the discovery of a very funny troupe from Saint Petersburg, COMIC TRUST. This is their first appearance in France but, of course, not their last. They’re already expected at the Edinburgh Festival, then they should return to us as very dear touring guests of the Besançon National Stage…          
Imagine three jesters, three magnificent clowns: the terrorist’s student with a childish charm a la Giuletta Masina, a hysterical buffoon and a fidgety cretin. They live at a garbage dump in cardboard boxes among all kinds of boxes of varying sizes that are

  They can overturn the meaning of things, displaying to the world all their fantasy and absurdity.  

accessories intended for a physical, inventive and confusing game. These characters would be at home in silent movies, in a cartoon or a Beckett-type nightmare. Like their confrere Slastic, they can overturn and distort the meaning of things, displaying to the world all their fantasy and absurdity. One must see what Natalia FISSON does with a stick of lipstick, with a hanger or a tampon; what Nikolay KYCHEV invents from an iron, not forgetting Igor SLADKEVICH, who at the slightest noise begins jumping up and down like an electric battery, a mix of Jerry LEWIS and Jim CARREY together. The only salvation is unrestrained laughter. And the audience dies laughing.
…A change of tune with Natalia and Nikolay from Comic Trust playing a most excellent and insanely funny marionette number. It’s so simple, and this is real happiness!  

MIDI LIBRE (Franse) July 17, 2001
  Russian Deschamps is Right on the Mark

  Great mimes, balancing between old Russian traditions and musical comedy of gestures.

  Centered title:  
And the Plasticity of Tex AVERY

It could have been a case of typical Russian devil-may-care: three pieces of string supposedly a rope, four pieces of cardboard in the form of a house, empty plastic bottles and even-may Chekhov forgive us a tampon as a poetic tool.  

In a word, it could all turn into a dog’s DESCHAMPS Petersburg style. This sometimes happens when a bottle crate takes the place of furniture and beer cans start running around with a loud rattle after scenery made of cardboard boxes. But the only and ubiquitous three members of the Comic Trust troupe are quite another matter.
            There’s something reminiscent of the cartoon in all this visual fever and something of the abrupt succession of silent movie shots in these sketches with their plastic eggs or running iron to create something indiscernibly pathetically sentimental and sentimentally funny. Through all of Balagin, the 18-hour show by Comedian’s Spring, they are both tap-dancers and fair clowns. 
When evening comes in the show called Second Hand – Clownostrophobia, they throw on their crazy frock coats, don hobos’ overcoats, put on eyeglasses made of bottle glass and become what we could only attempt to guess at under the blanket of encroaching dusk: great mimes blending old Russian traditions, musical comedy of gestures and the amazing plasticity of Tex AVERY. 

Natalia, Igor, Nikolay, pathetically sentimental and sentimentally funny

Natalia FISSON, Igor SLADKEVICH and Nikolay KYCHEV—we should give their full names—possess the high art of making children in the front row laugh and their parents sitting behind them smile fondly. There is something from Fin de Partie in this shattered world, and the bursts of tenderness remind one of Giuletta Masina in La Strada in her sudden burlesque on the silent beach. 

But we would be wrong to attach too much intellectualism to a show that is first and foremost amazing visual madness. Don’t attempt to resist the hysteria, this insanity, this can-can and this rubber lack of balance. Even in the cardboard scenery the Russian DESCHAMPS cause a sensation. And how happy we feel…  

The LIST (Guide of Edinburgh Fringe Festival) 9-15 Aug 2001
James Smart  Naphthalene **** 
Komedia St
Stephens, until 13 Aug, times vary. 

Its expressive, agile performers never lose their sense of fun

    Any show that starts with a group of Russian cosmonauts from environmental health creating havoc among the audience can't be all bad, and Napthalene is in fact pretty damn fine. Its three performers enact stylised dances, insect mating rituals and swordfights with aplomb, donning grotesque masks and vivid costumes and generally doing their best to give mime a good name. Thieving angels, impotent devils and large green balls are among the protagonists in this physical theatre, although the cream of the crop is perhaps the mannequin whose 'Billie Jean' routine is good enough to give Jacko himself a few sleepless nights. This cabaret show never loses its sense of continuity, and its expressive, agile performers never lose their sense of fun.


Duska Radosavijevic Heaney

     They storm down through the auditorium in their nuclear war gear, armed to their teeth with toy guns, and having taped off the audience, exclaim: "No panic, it's just crazy Russians coming!" - followed by: "Don't worry, be ready!" It is appropriate advice, because what you are about to witness might have you in uncontrollable, life-threatening fits of laughter. Meanwhile they dance - a selection of greenflies' mating dances, Russian flamenco and gravity-defying can-can. Not impressed? Wait for a puppetry dance showcase featuring anything you can think of from Swan Lake to headless rock'n'roll to Michael Jackson impersonation, in combination with the "puppeteers", own tapping feet.
     The Comic Trust's "Gag-Woman" (Natalia Fisson), "Cocacolenka" (Nikolai Kytchev) and "Small-Bug" (Igor Sladkevich) are a multi-talented trio of thoroughbred Russian clowns with such sparkling imagination that even their director Vadim Fisson might have been at a toss of controlling. However, this hour of sketches is probably the most original mixture of musical buffoonery and facial slapstick you are likely to see for a long time. Russian peasants, crooked angels and outwitted death itself make it into the show, rounded off nicely with a "Don't worry, be crazy" Russian rap number.


THE SUNDAY TIMES (UK) 12 aug 2001
Ian Watson

     Naphthalene proves that Benny Hill and Tiswas made it to Russia after all, with a production that starts with a trio, of Mad Max extras terrorising the audience and then lurches off into the realms of surreal nonsense. At times it feels like the performers — Baltic lookalikes of Terry-Thomas, Phil Collins and Lulu — simply ram-raided a costume shop and dreamt up what to do with the outfits in the pub afterwards. But they have enough natural charm to carry it off.


THE HERALD (UK) 4 August 2001
Mary Brennan

...They are versatile mimes, hoofers, puppeteers. There's brilliance in dance routines - everything from Little Swans to Michael Jackson - done by Fisson and Kytchev using their own heads and dolls' bodies. And Sladkevich is genuinely funny...


SCOTSMAN (Scotland) 4 August 2001
lan Hewines

     This all-singing, all-dancing slice of Russo - comedy evokes memories of 1950's Disney animation. Reminiscent of the pre-gig movies that used to play at Krakow raves, the show reeks of bohemian Eastern Europe and the black whirl of Georgian opium.
     The cast of three has imaginatively mixed elements of Benny Hill, Gilliam's Brasil, Erasurehead and Cabaret with Russian folk music, rap and trad-jazz to produce an eccentric and often entertaining show.
     Igor Sladkevich, replete with Jools Holland jester hunch, steals the show with his handbag-stealing angel, elongating necktie and Russian bagpipe sketch.


Hannoversche Allgemeine (Germany)

     ...This show has everything it needsheart-breaking rhythm and an absurd kaleidoscope of characters in brilliantly funny performances.  These actors don't need much to produce an enormous effect and make people laugh...

 PRINZ (Germany)

...Their performances are always as unique as their professionalism.

Marie Claire (Franse)

     ...They breathe life into everything they touch, resurrecting the myth of the mysterious Russian soul...


Limburgs Dagblad (Netherlands)  

     ...The audience had a wonderful time. The high point of the evening was the performance by Comic Trust, a theatre company from St. Petersburg, Russia.  It was a crazy mixture of dance, mime and clowning... 


TeleWeekend (Russia)                                                                           

      ...Words aren't enough to convey the unbridled theatrical spirit of Comic Trust. I've been seen anything like it!


Izvestiya (Russia)

     ...They break theatrical canons, cross genre boundaries and other conventions...

Argumenty i fakty (Russia)                                                                               

    ... Their shows are always packed - Comic-Trust is a unique phenomenon!


 And others, 




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