Russian carnivalesque curiosity at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
This article is from 2013.
Fringe First and Total Theatre Award winners blackSKYwhite promised that Omega would take the audience into a twilight world of the circus side show and mysterious freaks. Russian physical theatre has a reputation, thanks to the likes of Derevo, for stretching the possibilities of both the body and imagination.
Unfortunately, Omega is overambitious in scale, but under-ambitious in depth. A series of variable routines – some astounding, like the apparently mechanical Moongirl, others predictable – are strung together across a vague narrative that suggests a bold look at the dark heart of human nature. When the physical theatre takes control, the effect is disorientating and forceful: a tableau of the Biblical story of Holofernes and Judith is erotic and disturbing, reducing the heroine and her victim to automata stuck in the moment of sensual murder. Unfortunately, the interludes between the routines degenerate into obscure bellowing about occult cosmology: moments of sinister suggestion are frequent but lost in the mix.
blackSKYwhite obviously have the famed skill of Russian physical theatre, and most of these scenes would be outstanding – and fearsome – in a more general cabaret. Yet the attempt to lend each act power through a dystopian narrative is well worn. The music owes as much to Tom Waits as to proto-industrial electronica and frequently overwhelms the performances: the spurious weight added to admittedly impressive acrobats undermines the sheer skill by loading it with portentous meaning.
Omega is perhaps all the more disappointing because of this disjuncture between the artists’ brilliance and its failure to plunge the emotional depths that it promises. While there are unforgettable moments – the spiders that weave reality, the manic energy of the two chorus girls and the final image of a lurking, sinister entity beyond human – the show drags at over an hour and slips into incoherence.
Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), £15 (£12)