It is hard to know how to describe Derevo’s Mephisto Waltz. Its five ensemble members seem somewhere between human and animal, descending from some other sphere to give us one hour and twenty minutes of intense movement and stunning scenery. Finally, they return to their human selves, greeting the audience one last time before leaving.
There is no obvious plot; instead, we are taken through the painful inner journey of lead performer Anton Adasinsky as he fights with forces inside and outside himself. From wars that divide the gods to a field of sunflowers, we are led through shifts and changes that suck us in and push us away, as the stage transforms to the rhythm of the waltz. Dressed in black, four figures move around the lead performer, provoking him or being provoked, coming close and running away. The audience cannot help but take in the smells from the stage, as the show whizzes between calm sprinklings of snow and repulsive splatters of watermelon, sausages, tomatoes and mud. Despite remaining firmly in our seats, we are dragged uncomfortably into the action.
The ensemble of Mephisto Waltz is tight and responsive, and the visual spectacle and technical interplay are compelling. Whilst there were several moments during the performance when I felt out of place or questioned aspects of the piece, all was resolved in the concluding minutes. The finale of the piece brought the scenes together in a cycle, leaving us back where we started but with a powerful blow to the stomach region.
For me, the most moving moment of the show came afterwards, when Adasinsky stepped forward to dedicate the show to DV8’s Nigel Charnock, who recently died from stomach cancer. This giving of the company’s own sweat and personal agony to someone else felt both heartfelt and real. A powerful gesture, a gut-wrenching tribute, and an intense experience that is not for the weak at heart.
**** – 4 Stars
Mephisto Waltz is playing at Assembly Roxy until 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.