London Mime Festival returns with a feast of visual and physical works

what's become of me

what's become of me - Credit: Archant

The annual International London Mime Festival is an eclectic showcase for cutting-edge, genre-defying work. This year, diverse art forms from puppetry to live photography and ballet are on the programme at venues including the Barbican, Jackson’s Lane and Platform Theatre.

»At The Barbican’s Pit theatre French company Man Drake stage Anatomia Publica from January 21 to 25. It tells the story of a soldier missing in action and presumed dead who returns to find his wife with another man.

Inspired by the work of film-maker Martin Arnold and wartime events in director Tomeo Vergés’s own family, Anatomia Publica deploys a hybrid of dance and theatre, fractured movement and a thrumming soundscape to depict a tense ménage à trois.

Italian company Citta Di Ebla also appears at The Pit with their take on James Joyce’s short story The Dead, first published in his 1914 anthology The Dubliners.

The theme of a grand dance where a song heard by chance poignantly reminds a married woman of the lost love who died for her sake, has been re-spun into a contemporary impressionistic evocation of passion and nostalgia using real-time projected photographic images to counterpoint the stage action.


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It’s co-created by director Claudio Angelini and photographer Luca Di Filippo, who were focusing on literary masterpieces written in about the early 1900s to “transport not translate a masterpiece into something new”.

Luca said: “The plot is completely far away from The Dubliners story, it follows a city couple and shows this moment of missing someone and remembering the time spent with them. It’s about the impact of a strong feeling from the past, how nostalgia can hit suddenly as the things around you bring back memories.”

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Luca is part of the performance, moving around taking photographs, which disorientingly create a disjoint between past and present by overlapping with flashbacks so the audience is unsure what is real-time and what is not. “I give the point of view of the person who she’s missing, but sometimes it’s hard to tell real-time from what she’s imagining from the past.

“We are investigating with the audience what are the elements that ignite those memories.”

The Dead runs from January 28 until February 1.

Finding Joy at Jacksons Lane, Highgate, is a comic and touching full mask show by Vamos Theatre.

Artistic director and company founder Rachael Savage says, like much of their work, the story of a troubled teen who becomes his grandmother’s carer when she develops dementia is rooted in real life.

“All of our work is aimed at an intergenerational audience and we hope this one, about the relationship between a grandson and his grandmother, attracts everyone from 12 to 101.”

Joy is in the early stages of dementia and when grandson Danny – rebellious, bright, but often in trouble – steps in to care for her. They form a mutually beneficial bond that brings love and laughter to both.

‘Astonished’

“When I researched dementia everything was negative, news, films, articles, everything ended in death,” says Savage.

“But when I got back in touch with an old friend who has been caring for her mother for seven years, I heard a very different kind of story, the opposite in fact.

“I was astonished by the way this old lady was being cared for. Her memory and her character was going, but rather than her daughter thinking ‘I am losing someone, it’s all about me’, she tried to find ways of communicating with her, to find who she still was – that’s why I called it Finding Joy, it’s about celebrating the person, finding joy in them and with them.”

Savage says it’s as much the grandson’s story as the grandmother’s. When the unemployed youngster, who had been on the wrong side of the law, wakes up one day and says, “I want to look after granny” it is a huge leap of faith for his family.

A full mask show, she says, is where the actors have “an internal monologue, but are able to get across how they are thinking and feeling through body language and gesture”.

She says: “Because of the lack of eye contact, the audience are drawn in and have to work hard to interpret what’s going on. This is not theatre handed to you on a plate, you have to meet the action halfway, but it’s rewarded by a depth of emotion. You are engaging so strongly and deeply with these characters because you are having to invest.”

She adds: “Right from drama school I was more interested in physical theatre.

“Even when I work with text, I constantly look for ways of cutting words and finding a more interesting way of telling the story without them.”

Finding Joy is at Jacksons Lane on January 24, at 8pm and January 25, at 3pm and 8pm.

A performance at Hornsey Road Baths, L’Apres-Midi d’un Foehn, by Compagnie Non Nova, magically recreates Debussy’s ballet using surprisingly graceful small plastic air-filled bags as “dancers”.

And in the Barbican’s main theatre, choreographer Aurelien Bory and star Stephanie Fuster perform What’s Become of You? backed by vocals and guitar, which explores the heat passion and power of flamenco. It runs from January 30 to February 1.

Further information and bookings at www.mime london.com.

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