all white on the night as Russians get physical
White Side Story, *****
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
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
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.
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
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
STAGE (UK) AUGUST
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.
Drams: None = Unmissable
\_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ =
Trust - White Side Story
Drams None, but give the performers a celebratory magnum of
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
for all! 14
reviewer: John Kut country: United
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.
for young and old alike 07
reviewer: Thomas Hird country: United
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,
August 17, 2002
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
DAILY EXPRESS (UK)
August 15, 2002
stars unusually silent on play
stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins spent one of their first nights in
Scotland watching a bizarre stage show featuring three Russian mime
The couple were accompanied by a minded, but slipped in unnoticed
to watch White Side Story by the St Petersburg Theatre Company
YOUR TOP SHOWS
story of a White Kingdom, a White Queen and three White Clowns told in
dance mime and music.
Simply the best I’ve seen so far. Emotion from joy to despair without
words and great fun.
stunning. By turns mystifying, moving & hilarious. Y? U’ve never
seen anything like it before. Not to be missed!
August 22, 2002
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
June 25, 2001
Surprises from Comedians’ Spring.
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
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.
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!
Deschamps is Right on the Mark
Great mimes, balancing between old Russian traditions and
musical comedy of gestures.
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.
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.
Igor, Nikolay, pathetically sentimental and sentimentally funny
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…
of Edinburgh Fringe Festival) 9-15
Komedia St Stephens,
until 13 Aug, times vary.
expressive, agile performers never lose their sense of fun
Any show that starts with a group of Russian cosmonauts from environmental
havoc among the audience can't be all bad, and Napthalene is in fact
fine. Its three performers enact stylised
dances, insect mating rituals
with aplomb, donning grotesque
masks and vivid
and generally doing their
to give mime a good
name. Thieving angels, impotent devils
and large green balls
among the protagonists
in this physical theatre, although
the cream of the crop is perhaps the
mannequin whose 'Billie
good enough to give Jacko himself a few sleepless nights. This
show never loses its sense of continuity,
and its expressive, agile
never lose their sense of fun.
AUGUST 16, 2001
Duska Radosavijevic Heaney Naphthalene
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
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.
SUNDAY TIMES (UK) 12
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.
HERALD (UK) 4
...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...
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.
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.
Sladkevich, replete with Jools Holland jester hunch, steals the show with
angel, elongating necktie and Russian bagpipe sketch.
...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
performances are always as unique as their professionalism.
life into everything they touch, resurrecting the myth of the mysterious
...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...
...Words aren't enough to convey the unbridled theatrical
spirit of Comic Trust. I've been seen anything like it!
...They break theatrical
canons, cross genre boundaries and other conventions...
... Their shows are always
packed - Comic-Trust is a unique phenomenon!