Showing as part of Mimetic Festival 2014 (17 – 29 November 2014)
In writing this review I discovered that Daniil Kharms’ 1939 novella, The Old Woman, is available to read online. However I urge anyone to hold back until they have seen Clout Theatre’s wonderful re-invention of Kharms’ surrealist story, as half the fun is putting yourself in their hands and watching how the inspired, frenetic lunacy eventually yields results and tells a very understandable story in a most absurd way.
Clout delivers a highly stylised piece of physical theatre which draws as much of its inspiration from the innovators of early European cinema as it does from theatrical tradition. We see the expressionism of F.W. Murneau in the careful and controlled use of spotlights to create a sense of dramatic tension through the interplay between light, dark and the spaces in between. Alongside this there runs, in the writer’s relationship with the world, the slightly off-kilter, unreal societal pressure that works to create the crushing paranoia of Fritz Lang’s M.
It is how this keen cinematic understanding is set against a clear understanding of the demands of physical theatre that is most impressive. It is one of the hardest styles of theatre to get right, and when it goes wrong it is highly noticeable. The credit that can be given to practitioners, like Stephen Berkoff, who did so much to popularise the style in the UK is to point to all the terrible productions that followed in their wake that clearly assumed it was just a case of slapping on some greasepaint and a black polo-neck.
The three actors, Sacha Plaige, Jennifer Swingler and George Ramsa, directed by Mine Cerci, stretch themselves to their physical limits. They understand that to perform grotesques they must reach extremes. Each gesture is exaggerated and each movement is set down with an absolute sense of its purpose and meaning. As a result every action has a function and a reason for existing, no matter how absurd it appears.
One could apply this to any example but particular credit must go to Sacha Paige’s portrayal of the old woman. The intensity with which the clock face is presented and the mugging expressions that accompany her every action are a true masterclass in the art of the physical. I never thought that a dreamed creation would be quite as surreally unsettling as the dwarf in Twin Peaks but Paige’s old woman is a terrifying creation; a deathless force that acts as a constant reminder of the writer’s mortality.
For the full review and much more on Mimetic Festival, please click here
Today, Civilian Theatre takes a step back from its usual habit of telling its readers about shows that are halfway through a run and where tickets are harder to locate than snow leopards. Instead I will encourage people who like theatre to check out Finger in the Pie’s Mimetic Festival, which runs Tuesday 18 to Saturday 29 November 2014.
(25 – 29 November @ 21:40) (Tickets)
It seems only fair to start with Mimetic Festival’s Bursary Award Winner (decided by public vote), Michael Twaits. Seven years ago he created Confessions of a Dancewhore and has subsequently headlined Soho Theatre. His new show takes on the myth that every cell in the body regenerates in seven years. But does that mean we become a new person or just a second rate version of the same thing? Even better – there’s a video:
(18 – 22 November @ 19:00) (Tickets)
Describing the premise of a piece of absurdist physical theatre in words seems to rather miss the point. Still in their own words ‘…Expressionist silent film meets grotesque slapstick in a world where clocks have no hands and a cucumber can kill a man.’ You may recoil at the Noel Fielding-ness of such a statement. However the trailer below suggests dipping into a much richer tradition than The Mighty Boosh ever managed.
(18 – 22 November @ 20:00) (Tickets)
I am basically sold on someone else’s quote on this – ‘what it would be like to stroll through the inside of Tim Burton’s and Terry Gilliam’s minds’. Hmm, yes please. The trailer isn’t half bad too.
(25 – 29 November @ 20:20) (Tickets)
The show promises a huge fan of Tommy Cooper and trained clown who just happens to be trapped in the body of a gorgeous French women. What is not to love? Vive La France!
(25 – 29 November @ 19:50) (Tickets)
I find invoking such pomp and bombast in your trailer is often the musical equivalent of Godwin’s Law, and you have lost my interest before evening starting. So all credit to Kill the Beast that their stunning visual effects and their clear commitment to proving that Stephen Berkoff isn’t the only person allowed to slap white greasepaint all over themselves. The show looks promising too.
Other shows to look at for, and there are many, many more, include Antler’s Where the White Stops (which I had the pleasure of seeing at the BAC before its Edinburgh run in 2013), It’s A Kind of Magic and The Misdemeanours of Saccharine. You can check out the full programme on the Mimetic Festival website.
The Mimetic Festival celebrates the diverse, and occasionally hidden, ends of the theatrical spectrum. No staid Noel Cowards or Shakespeare in Elizabethan dress here. What you’ll get is two weeks of the very best emerging devised, physical and visual theatre, puppetry and cabaret.
Finger in the Pie should also be applauded for recognising that much of the best work takes place on the continent and the Festival is pushing itself to become a hub for emerging european theatre making in the UK.
Civilian Theatre applauds any group that look beyond the ‘precious stone set in the silver sea’ and seeing the wealth of talent for what it is – an opportunity, not a threat.
Tuesday 18th – Saturday 29th November 2014
The Vaults, Leake St, London SE1 7NN
Civilian Theatre is proud to be an Awards Partner Reviewer for the Mimetic Festival. We will be out and about catching as many shows as possible, alongside fellow Partners: Litro, London City Nights, The Public Reviews, Savage, The Theatre Tourist, Theatrefullstop and View From the Gods. If you see us, come say hello.
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by Eda Nacar
#AreTheyIn - The Absent Reviewer
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