The annual London International Mime Festival has extended left behind the traditional notion of the mime artist: many shows now push at the boundaries of physical theatre. But Marcel, this year’s festival opener, at the Shaw Theatre, features all the old favourites: opening invisible doors, walking down non-existent stairs, mistiming a handshake more than and more than once again. That’s since this droll, bittersweet two-hander examines ageing by way of the medium of clowning.
Marcello Magni and Jos Houben met in the early 1980s, both working for the groundbreaking company Complicite. No longer very so supple, they’ve chosen to tackle this head-on in a deceptively basic show that draws on their own previous and on the history of clowning, reaching back as far as commedia dell’arte.
Magni’s ageing, besuited tiny character is summoned for a verify-up by some mysterious, Kafkaesque institution, where Houben’s stern examiner puts him through a baffling set of tests. Anxious to please — and to pass — Magni exerts himself valiantly, but is tripped up by slapstick at each and every opportunity. Props stubbornly resist command his own physique rebels. It is the physical comedy version of Death of a Salesman.
A lot of of the gags are corny — deliberately so — and the show relishes the delight of raising a laugh with tried-and-tested routines. But while gently daft, it is also immensely poignant. Houben, tall, lean, forbidding, and Magni, tiny, plumper, eager, make an archetypal double act. There’s more than a hint of Beckett about their bewildering circumstances and a dark undertow to Magni’s desperate attempts to stave off the inevitable. Performed with consummate dexterity, this is a show that speaks to the fear in every person of getting deemed redundant and defies that fear by generating ancient jokes really feel fresh.
Simplicity is also a key principle for Ockham’s Razor in their new perform Tipping Point, displaying at the Platform Theatre. Right here 5 skilled acrobatic performers weave delicate narratives using just lengthy swinging poles and handfuls of chalk. In element it is a 3D geometry and physics lesson, as the five produce mesmerising patterns and send each and every other spinning by way of space via judicious use of weight and counterbalance. But there is also a playground glee to it all — one daredevil sequence resembles kids swinging on a rope across a river.
And throughout, there is a touching exploration of trust and betrayal. Emily Nicholl performs a routine on parallel bars kept in perpetual motion by her colleagues. So agile is she that they mischievously move them more quickly and more rapidly — till she falls off. It takes the entire show for her to trust them once again and when she does, the result is a stunning aerial dance, in the course of which 1 of her partners dangles her from on higher by just one foot.
The show is peppered with related tipping points, mathematical, physical and private, so that you see the prospective danger and the co-operation that averts it. But it is all executed with a playful lightness of touch and the finish — as a circling pole draws a giant Spirograph pattern on the floor — quietly sums up the mix of childhood game and ritual.
Festival runs to February six, mimelondon.com
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