Natura Morte brings theatre companies Derevo and Akhe together

Natural limits

Arches show unites two of the world's most unconventional groups

Extraordinary theatre companies Derevo and Akhe are set to take The Arches beyond the boundaries of the normal with their latest theatre production, Natura Morte. Kelly Apter speaks to the main players putting this unique and highly ambitious project together

As partnerships go, it couldn’t be more perfect. One of Scotland’s most unusual and atmospheric venues effectively handing over the keys to two of the world’s most unconventional theatre companies. What the performance will look like is still anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure, when Derevo and Akhe start running wild around the Arches, it won’t be dull.

Advertised as taking place in ‘parts of the Arches never seen before’, Natura Morte will be a promenade performance like no other. Both Dresden-based Derevo and Akhe from St Petersburg are known quantities in

Scotland, having dazzled, amused and confused audiences with their innovative dance and physical theatre. But never before have the two forces come together in a UK theatre. Now, along with six Scottish performers hand-picked by the new Conflux project, both companies will fill the Arches with dance, theatre, music and their own special brand of bizarreness.

‘I was desperate to perform in it myself and am still deeply jealous of everybody who is,’ says Al Seed, former artist-in-residence at the Arches and now artistic director of Conflux. ‘But it’s just not the best use of my time. My job is as a middle man between Derevo, Akhe and the Scottish performers, and assistant directing when required. So I’m very much part of the process, but still jealous I can’t get up and have a wiggle. But it’s just great that the project is happening.’

While we’ll miss Seed’s absence as a performer, his input is still invaluable. Having spent so many years performing and directing at the Arches, he knows the space inside out. And these days, there is more to the building than ever before. Standing in a dark, creepy room, deep in the bowels beneath Glasgow’s Central Station, it’s not hard to imagine the fun Derevo will have with the venue. ‘This derelict space was opened up quite recently,’ explains Seed as we explore the rooms. ‘And it’s a lot more grungy than upstairs. It used to be completely out of bounds, but now it’s a lot easier to get to.’

So, with the usual Arches performance spaces to play with, plus the new basement, the two visiting companies should be spoilt for choice – although Seed is convinced they won’t stop there. ‘I have no doubt they’ll want to go into the plant rooms with all the wires, or find a particularly interesting toilet cubicle to use. There are also various cubby holes and corners we could open up, but I don’t want to give too much away.’

Understandably, certain elements of Natura Morte will remain under wraps until the performance itself, to ensure maximum audience enjoyment. What we do know, however, is that the entire show will kick off at 7.30pm (not split in two halves as previously advertised) and that the Derevo, Akhe and Conflux performers will all work hand in hand throughout the evening.

Converging in a central space for the opening, the audience will then be led off in small groups to various parts of the building for short modular performances, before returning to the main area. The decision behind which members of the audience go where is also being kept hush hush, but as Seed says: ‘There will be a very playful way of dividing the audience up, with interesting and fun elements of chance and fate deciding where you go.’

The man controlling the dice, so to speak, is Anton Adasinsky – Derevo founder and the brainchild behind Natura Morte. He recalls his immediate reaction to The Arches when he first walked through the door years ago. ‘The first time I came here I thought this could be a great place that some crazy millionaire just bought,’ he says, ‘and used all the rooms, all the corners to make an installation just about himself. So it’s like an open museum about one man. That was my first impression, so when the idea of this project came up, I thought okay, that could work.’

And so Adasinsky created ‘the Weatherman’ (so called because he can tell when it’s going to rain) a man who lives alone in a building with many rooms, each one dedicated to a different artistic dream. ‘He lives here but nobody sees him,’ explains Adasinsky. ‘He just leaves his voice on tape in the corners of different rooms. When the audience goes off in their groups, there will be seven different shows built in different styles – dance, acting, performance, installation, video art, Akhe style, pantomime and clowns. And each room reflects a part of his life.’

During the course of the show, each audience member will have the chance to visit three of the different rooms, book ended by an opening performance and finale. With Derevo and Akhe providing 21 performers, complemented by the Scottish contingent, it’s going to be a busy affair. And, with less than ten days to put the whole show together, it’s going to be a whirlwind experience for all concerned.

Fortunately, Derevo has a reputation for working speedily, which on this occasion will be helped by their existing relationship with Akhe. ‘We’ve known each other for about 20 years,’ explains Adasinsky. ‘Akhe has a beautiful way of creating visual things and set décor, and Derevo is famous for its body language and dancing, so it’s a good combination. And it’s fantastic for us to put something together here in Glasgow.’

While the visual aspects of Natura Morte will obviously be important, for Adasinsky, the underlying message is also key. ‘I see some shows,’ he says, ‘and I just can’t understand what they’re trying to say. It’s boring for me. They can do great movement, but what is it about? What’s the message behind it?’ As you might expect, therefore, Natura Morte has a message – a big one. About how we choose to live our lives and the way we follow, or more importantly don’t follow, our dreams.

‘When you’re young and your parents ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you say a cosmonaut,’ says Adasinsky. ‘Then, 20 years later, you’re not a cosmonaut, you’re sitting in a bank and the dream is over.’

So what is Adasinsky’s recommendation for keeping the dream alive?

‘If you’re doing something you don’t like, just stop it – it’s not the right way to live,’ he says. ‘There’s always time to do something new and change your life. Don’t stay stuck with the problem, because you only have one life and it’s very short. The Weatherman in the show finds a way to make his dream happen, and all day through he’s working and working, so that he has time to be a guitar player and a dancer and a clown – it is possible.’

Natura Morte, The Arches Glasgow, Tue 10–Sat 14 Nov, 7.30pm.

Derevo and Akhe performing together

Natura Morte

Russian/German dance company Derevo unite with St Peterburg theatre mavericks Akhe for a spectacular premier of new work across the whole of the Arches venue space.

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