Puppetry at the Mime Fest
32nd London International Mime Festival, 13-31 January 2010
The London International Mime Festival has always been January’s brightest theatre prospect, and in its 31 (soon to be 32) iterations has programmed new performance by some of the UK’s best puppetry companies, as well as keenly importing work from abroad. Recent editions of LIMF have brought us the mad, cacophonic, richly nightmarish work of Buchinger's Boot Marionettes (twice!); a rare appearance from Compagnie Philippe Genty (who stayed four days then disappeared through a trapdoor); annual pieces 2006-2009 from UK company Faulty Optic, constantly just ahead of puppetry’s leading edge; and Stephen Mottram’s famous Animata trilogy. So what’s in store for 2010?
Les Ateliers du Spectacle, A Distances
ICA Theatre, 28-31 January 8pm
From France, extraordinary animation theatre in seven short episodes – mysterious, unconventional and entertainingly quirky. A Distances is a micro-epic for two performers, shadows, puppets, objects, sounds, imagination and wonderful, clanking, Heath-Robinson machinery. From the same planet as Faulty Optic, Jan Svankmejer and the Brothers Quay, Jean-Pierre Larroche’s Ateliers du Spectacle have been devising boundary-breaking visual theatre for more than twenty years.
Compagnie Bal / Jeanne Mordoj, Eloge du Poil
(In Praise of Hairiness) (France)
Barbican, The Pit, 27-30 January 7.45pm
In a fairground-carnival setting, sharing her freakshow stage with a badger, a mountain goat and other natural curiosities, Jeanne Mordoj juggles egg yolks and bamboo and forces us to consider taboos that rarely come to the surface. Ventriloquist, puppeteer, contortionist and multi-talented circus artist, the charismatic bearded lady reveals truths about identity, perception, sex, and finally death itself.
Etgar Theatre, Eshet
Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, 16-19 January 8pm (Sun 6pm)
Eshet is the Old Testament story of Tamar, a young widow forced by convention to marry one of her dead husband’s brothers. Five life-size puppets and their human doubles play out this troubling drama which denounces male oppression and the harshness of laws concerning women. Its events and tragic consequences are still echoed in many societies today.
Compagnie Mossoux-Bonté, Kefar Nahum
Barbican, The Pit, 19-23 January 7.45pm
In Kefar Nahum, sorceress-puppeteer Nicole Mossoux creates theatre of startling, unforgettable images, at once droll and frightening. She endows random objects with human desires and animal impulses, and reincarnates them as actors. They represent the supreme shambles that is humanity. Everything is possible in this world, where suggestion opens the door to the darkest, deepest dreams. Power games and monstrous couplings, feudal rights and unexplained violence take place in a procession of constant transformations. It’s the story of Creation, a great project gone badly wrong, where people can’t relate and so devour each other. Even the puppeteer herself cannot escape.
PathosFormel, The Timidity of Bones
ICA Theatre, 24-26 January 7 & 8.30pm
Eerily impressed into the surface of a large, luminous white screen, the outline of bones and skeletal forms appear. Perhaps the debris of buried civilisations, fragments build to form a floating frieze, and finally a body that evokes an unimaginably distant and mysterious past.
blackSKYwhite, USSR Was Here
ICA Theatre, 16-20 January 8pm
Moscow’s blackSKYwhite made an indelible impression on British audiences with their nightmarish Bertrand’s Toys and subsequent production Astronomy for Insects. USSR Was Here is a vision of disintegration. Using movement, shadows, sound and light, and often terrifying characters and grotesque costumes, this is an overwhelming, impressionistic response to the sudden collapse of a great edifice.