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Review April 2004

Silent Stories

Internationally acclaimed Finnish mime production "Death of a Scarecrow" came to Malaysia's Istana Budaya in April 2004, raising the profile of the local arts scene by another notch.

"Scarecrow" is the brainchild of Adam Darius, widely acknowledged as a master of mime. He collaborated with his long-time associate, fellow dancer and actor Kazimir Kolesnik in this production, which featured 11 sketches performed to background of music and sound effects.

Indeed, though the actors themselves were silent, recorded melodies accompanied and accented their physical storytelling, which ran the gamut of human emotion: joy, sorrow, despair and loneliness. Some of the pieces used to highlight the sketches were compositions by Puccini and Bizet, a traditional Japanese shakuhachi melody, Irish folk tunes and French music hall songs.

Darius and Kolesnik turned out astonishing goosebump-raising performances. Kolesnik's first piece "In An Irish CafÈ" opened in a fairly light-hearted tableau depicting a lonely man whose only company was his mischievous dog and later, an imaginary sweetheart. Then there was Darius's mournful "The Father Who Searched For His Long Lost Son", in which a wailing Japanese melody tugged at the heartstrings as we empathised with the plight of the ageing man who searched hill and vale for his missing child.

More wonderfully amusing, eerie and ever-so-slightly disturbing sketches followed until the final tale, whose title headlined the entire production. In "Death of a Scarecrow", Kolesnik represented a force of evil whose victim is the defenceless scarecrow, played by Darius. Somewhat less direct compared to many of the other sketches, the distress emanating from Darius's scarecrow and the oppressive atmosphere created by the simple but effective stage effects still sent ripples of disquiet through the audience, successfully conveying the message of humankind's eternal suffering in a world of calculated cruelty.

The Men behind the Mime

Adam Darius has been hailed as one of the foremost authorities in physical theatre. This former ballet dancer has performed his unique fusion of mime and dance in major stages across six continents and 70 countries. His past work include biographical productions featuring Anne Frank and Yukio Mishima, and he has previously collaborated with Ingmar Bergman and Placido Domingo.

Kazimir Kolesnik has appeared in various musicals such as "West Side Story" and "Time", and choreographed many works including the acclaimed London productions of "Yukio Mishima" and "Tower of Babel" for the Adam Darius Company. Kolesnik is also the creator and director of Finnish television's comic horror series Hubert Harrington.

The 85-minute programme of 'Scarecrow' was atmospherically enhanced by the lighting of dancer/lighting designer, Thomas Freundlich. Freundlich also choreographed and performed in the lead role of the Adam Darius-directed ballet, "James Dean".

The last year saw Darius and Kolesnik performing 'Scarecrow' in the beautiful Russian city of St. Petersburg, and on a royal command performance in Jordan for Queen Noor Al Hussein. Before the shows in Malaysia, 'Scarecrow' was performed at the The Open Stage (Hagley Theatre Company) in Christchurch, New Zealand.


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