John Lee - South West Mime in Residence

Feature in Issue 1-1 | Winter 1989

In recognition of the growing national interest in mime and visual theatre South West Arts and the Arts Council of Great Britain are pleased to announce an exciting new project unique to the South West Region. Between October 1988 and April 1989 John Lee, one of the country’s foremost practitioners of the performing arts, will be engaged as Mime in Residence and will be actively involved in encouraging the growth of mime, visual theatre, and ‘new circus’. Although based at Exeter and Devon Arts Centre, John will be available through most of the region and it is hoped that all organisations and individuals with an interest in these disciplines will take advantage of this exceptional opportunity.

How it works

The residency is divided into three phases, each of which will involve courses both at Exeter and Devon Arts Centre and at other venues throughout the region. During the first phase, October 17th to January 14th, a number of week-long outreach workshops will be offered to organisations involved and interested in the arts. The workshops will cover a wide range of activities but will concentrate on developing the skills and techniques which are essential for practitioners of mime and visual theatre. There will be great emphasis placed on ‘new mime’ and circus-theatre, the intention being to explore and develop the strong tradition which has grown up around these disciplines in Britain during the past few years.

The second phase of the residency will run from January 16th 1989 through to March 11th and will focus on developing the potential of those involved in the project thus far. Here the emphasis will be on presentation and production skills and it is hoped that the energy of those participating will lead to the formation of a new, versatile physical theatre / mime company for the South West which will be of public performance standard.

From mid March onwards, John Lee will concentrate solely on this company, devising and producing a performance programme to be featured at the first South West Festival of New Mime and Circus Theatre which will be held in April 1989.

A word from John Lee

The mime residency for the South West of England will place special emphasis on the Fool. Following the great growth in mime and physical theatre, and then the development of circus-theatre, the focus of theatrical interest is now moving towards the Fool. The theme of the Fool lies at the centre of much of English theatrical life and yet the English Fool has been largely unexplored.

The Fool is a term used to define a character, broader in conception than a clown, who embraces the ideas of jester, trickster and buffoon. As physically adroit as the clown, as clever as the satirist and as convincing as the actor, the Fool is a master of his own disguise. He knows the corruption of humanity and his foolishness; he can highlight the inhumanity that surrounds him. He has, as a character, nothing to lose. The residency will emphasise the role of the Fool in all aspects of the work and will be the central axis around which mime and physical theatre themes will evolve. There will be a true celebration of your own glorious foolishness in all your workshops as well as the development of the techniques and styles of mime and physical theatre to bring forth and regain the heritage of the English Fool.

Referenced Artists

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Issue 1-1
p. 6 - 7