The Pick - Making the right gesture

Adult puppetry to an aerial exploration of the female condition

January 13, 2011

2011 London International Mime Festival

Various venues in London, 15-30 January

The 2011 London International Mime Festival promises everything from adult puppetry and animation to ecological satire and an aerial exploration of the female condition. For 16 days and nights, performers from 10 countries take over some of the capital’s most prestigious cultural spaces in a series of shows united only by the absence or near-absence of words. They confront our primal terrors, take us back into the warmth of childhood and look ahead to the possibility of a far darker future.

The 15 shows include 10 London premieres and one world premiere, with opportunities to meet all the artists afterwards. Many performances are suitable for children of 8 and over.

Jos Houben’s The Art of Laughter (Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, 26 January) is a one-man illustrated masterclass on the nature of physical comedy. Compagnia 2 + 1’s La Porta (Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, 20-23 January) features three traditional clowns building a show out of classic entrance and exit routines. And Paolo Nani and Kristjan Ingimarsson’s The Art of Dying (Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, -30 January) draws on frenetic and often hilarious clowning techniques to explore far darker territory, when one character learns he is dying and faces the challenge of doing it with dignity - in the middle of a successful tour.

Anagoor is a company based in Castelfranco, near Venice. Its production Tempesta (ICA Theatre, 28-30 January) takes its inspiration from the famously enigmatic landscapes of the Renaissance painter Giorgione, the teacher of Titian and a native of Castelfranco.

Compagnie Mpta/Mathurin Bolze’s Du Goudron et Des Plumes (Barbican Theatre, 26-29 January) is loosely based on John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men and takes place on a constantly moving set suspended in mid-air where five strangers, perhaps the survivors of a freak storm, struggle to maintain their balance.

In Sans Objet (Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, 21-23 January), Compagnie 111/Aurelian Bory offer a futuristic fantasy pitting a pair of acrobats against a friendly industrial robot that sometimes seems to turn nasty.

Teatro Corsario’s La Maldición de Poe (Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, 15-19 January) distils the strange world of Edgar Allan Poe, complete with dangerously beautiful women, malevolent cats and knife-wielding apes, into a terrifying gothic thriller.

Perhaps even stranger is Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Ford’s Flesh and Blood & Fish and Foul (The Pit at the Barbican, 19-22 and 24-29 January), where it looks like just an ordinary day in the office of a convenience food company. Yet as plants burst out of filing cabinets and animals start taking over, it begins to seem as if human dominance of the planet is coming to an end and we are about to witness a historic evolutionary shift.

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