In preparation for this show, the recent graduates of Moscow Art Theatre School took a little trip.
Forest, Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh ****
Based in an actual forest, they spent two weeks rubbing shoulders with nature, walking barefoot and blindfold through the trees.
Whether it’s a result of this intense groundwork, or the training they received at the seat of learning co-founded by the legendary Konstantin Stanislavski, either way, Forest has something truly special to offer.
A series of 18 vignettes, performed as duets or in a large ensemble, this visually striking production explores our increasing disconnect with the earth. With titles such as ‘Reflection’, ‘Conflict’ and ‘Renewal’, each small scene finds the cast using the space – and each other – in a new way.
Seven men and seven women pair up one at a time, their bodies clinging in need, rejecting or soothing their partner. During these duets, the rest sit on the floor alongside the audience, ready to storm the stage for another powerful group scene.
Dressed in long white cotton dresses and shirts, on a stage filled with real tree logs of different heights, when they all come together it’s a remarkable sight. Balancing high up before falling backwards into waiting arms, or teetering sideways on one hip, their use of the logs is ever-changing.
Behind them, a circular video screen takes us into real forests or the hypnotic slow motion splash of a stone falling in water. And while we gorge on this feast for the eyes, our ears guzzle up a fascinating soundscape of distorted natural sounds or gorgeous Russian folk singing.
Actor Brian Cox brought Moscow Art Theatre to the Fringe 30 years ago, and he and his family have been instrumental in bringing them back – judging by Forest, it’s a visit long overdue.
Until 11 August