A preview in words and pictures, by Dorothy Max Prior
The London International Mime Festival (LIMF) is – as all regular attendees know – more than a mime festival. Honouring a broader commitment to visual theatre, the annual festival has also, over many years, presented a great deal of puppetry, mask, and object theatre. Outside of the world of specialist puppetry festivals, LIMF is one of the few high-profile UK events to treat puppet theatre for adult audiences with the respect which (I’m sure we will all agree) it deserves, bringing high profile overseas artists and companies to the UK, and presenting UK work to new audiences, often to those unfamiliar with ‘grown up’ puppet theatre.
A quick check through the festival’s website archive reveals a continuous support for the art of puppet theatre in the programming (respect here to LIMF co-directors Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig.)
Past programmes have seen visits to London (often on more than one occasion) by an acclaimed and highly entertaining selection of artists. These include the dance-puppetry crossover company Mossoux Bonte from Belgium, Basil Twist from the USA – purveyor of Dream Music puppetry and collaborator with the divine Taylor Mac, movement theatre and animator extraordinaire Philippe Genty from France, expert manipulators Figurentheater Tubingen from Germany, Russian ‘engineers of the imagination’ Akhe, Swiss mask-puppet supremos Familie Floez, and the Spanish puppet-theatre company Teatro Corsario with their decadent delight, Vampyria.
LIMF has also shown consistent support for UK puppetry, object theatre and mask companies. Faulty Optic’s work has been a regular feature over the past decade or more. Other names on the roll-call include Improbable, Trestle Theatre, Dynamic New Animation, Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson, Jade, Stephen Mottram’s Animata, Maybellene, Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Blind Summit and Black Hole (this last being the company that created Forget Me Not, the UK collaboration between Paca and Little Angel Theatre, not the Australian puppet company of the same name). And in case you should think that it’s all weird artiness, the Punch & Judy College Of Professors have made two appearances: in 1997 with At Home With Punch & Judy, and in the following year presenting Lunch with Mr Punch.
So from 13–28 January 2007, the Mimefest is back, with another wonderful mix of physical and visual theatre, including a healthy amount of puppetry and animation.
Look out for visual theatre supremo Philippe Genty who makes his first London appearance for fifteen years with La Fin des Terres (Lands End), appearing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Thur 18-Sun 21 Jan. We are promised ‘huge tricks with reality, creating impossible illusions’ and are reassured that ‘this fabulous concoction of ingenuity and technical wizardry is simply magical and astonishing to see’. Book early!
Faulty Optic are back with Soiled, which runs Sun 14-Thur 18 Jan, with a post-show discussion on Mon 15 Jan.
Using animated figures, pre-recorded and live-feed video, complex micro installations and specially composed sound and music, Faulty Optic takes you on a journey that is ‘charming and hazardous, emotional and cruel and spiked with wicked humour.’
Philip Boë (Switzerland) offers something rather different – Mémoire de la Nuit (Fri 19-Sun 21 Jan, 8pm.Post-show discussion: Sat 20 Jan) is ‘a surreal detective story inspired by the imagery of René Magritte, which blurs the borders between theatre and magic.’
Steven Whinnery’s Lying with the Animals is a mask and puppet show, inspired by Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons, that teeters on the edge of theatre, cabaret and live art. ‘A playful and humorous work, which evokes an off-kilter world where the line between animal and human is mischievously blurred.’ Mon 22-Tue 23 Jan, 8pm. Post-show discussion: Tues 23 Jan
Last but not least, Joseph Seelig informs Animations that ‘we have finalised the last piece of our programming jigsaw: it's a very funky and weird marionette company called Buchinger's Boot Marionettes, the show is called Vestibular Folds and it will be at The ICA Friday 26 and Saturday 27 Jan at 8pm and on Sunday 28 Jan at 6pm. It's an opera about the inaudible and the unmentionable. So there!’ Well, straight from the horse’s mouth, there you have it, the finale to LIMF 2007.
And one more thing to mention: The London International Mime Festival/Total Theatre Lecture 2007 will be given by John Fox of Welfare State International, at The ICA on Saturday 20 January at 3pm.
To find out more about these shows and events, and to book tickets, see www.mimefest.co.uk