London International Mime Festival 2011
To my surprise, I ended up going to four shows as part of this years mime festival. To my further surprise, it was my wife who ended up moaning about the fact some of these shows – well, the French ones – actually featured mime.
La Maldición de Poe by Teatro Corsario – As the title (The Curse Of Poe) suggests, this is heavily inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Teatro Corsario cut down the already relatively intimate stage of the Purcell Rooms into a moodily lit box for puppetry as they take us through a series of mashed up vignettes so that, for example, ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ are superimposed on each other. Broodingly gothic in its tuberculour framing story, it also strongly tends to grand guignol and is shot through with scatological humour. A lot of fun and never out-stayed its welcome (although perhaps the performers didn’t need to take four bows).
Sans Objet by Compagnie 111/Aurelien Bory – If The Curse Of Poe was fun, Sans Objet was simply stunning. Something squats dragon-like beneath a vast tarpaulin which covers the whole stage. It starts to move; rearing up, turning its head, swooping down. Two men walk on stage and (with some choreographed difficulty) remove the sheet to reveal the creature. Incongruously, it is a robot. Not a humanoid or even animal-like robot but a huge articulated arm such as you would see on a factory assembly line. Now, I’ve seen a man dance with a JCB but I’ve never seen a man dance with a robot. And it was wonderful. It was also technically astounding on a number of levels; contemporary dance, classic mime and modern engineering combining with an uncanny grace.
Flesh and Blood, Fish and Fowl by Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Forde – This is an exercise in exponentially increasing entropy. A man emerges from a bin and prepares himself for another day in an anonymous American office. He is a Brentish figure who Sobelle acts out in a series of fastidious and grotesque tics. It soon becomes clear he has nothing to do. Enter Forde, his secretary, in a deeply uncomfortable parody parade of lasciviousness. There is an exquisite, excruciating drawn out ‘courtship’ which is eventually consummated in the same bin Sobelle emerged from. Whilst this is happening we have the insistent, cumulative intrusion of nature (in the form of stuffed animals and plastic vines) which gradually usurp the humans. Apparently inspired by the abandoned city of Chernobyl, there are bursts of brilliant physical comedy here but I’m not so sure it makes a cohesive whole (although, of course, so much performance disdains this very concept).
Du Goudron et des Plumes by Compangie MPTA/ Maturin Bolze – This reminded me of The Mill (the only thing I saw at last year’s festival) in that having built their wonderful prop, the company didn’t seem to know what to do with it. A huge suspended platform sways in the middle of the stage, over the course of the performance it will move horizontally and vertically and the performers on it will come to resemble mariners on a great ship. But the great metaphorical potential of this transformation is wasted. The piece starts hypnotically and builds to a destructive crescendo but then, fatally, goes back in the opposite direction, becoming simply boring rather than quietly compelling. There are some nice bits of business, particularly an emotionally-charged imaginary dinner party, but to often it is repetitive and anti-climatic. They received a standing ovation; my wife turned to me with a sour look.