Mime in Print

Feature in Issue 6-3 | Autumn 1994

Paul Vates takes a light hearted look at some old issues of MAGazine and Total Theatre.

Once upon a time, way back in 1984, Mime Action Group was born, in Colverstone Crescent, London E8. Now, ten years on, MAG has grown into a strapping young child full of vigour and enthusiasm. But what have the last ten years left behind? Memories, meetings and periodical publications. These ‘school reports’ show an interesting history of this beloved group. So, how did Total Theatre get to where it’s at now?

Well, I did a little probing and researching into the dark recesses of some of MAG’s oldest cupboards and cob-webbed corners and astonishingly could not dig up any written records of MAG’s doings until Issue 9 of MAGazine from Winter 1986/87. This is a little A5 booklet of ten pages. Almost cute. Full of typed information. With the headline ‘The Fight For Funding: A Battle Won, A War To Wage’. Oh, such happy times… Issue 14 is the last, because it evolved into TOTAL THEATRE in Winter of 88/89.

This Darwinian evolution has taken place at various locations. London E8 to Broadthorn Cottage in Kendal, Cumbria, to Battersea Arts Centre, London, to Sadler’s Wells. All the time, wherever home was, MAGazine and Total Theatre followed.

The majority of the publications have been of an A4 format, excepting a spell of five issues from Spring 91 to Spring 92 when it was A3 and resembled a glossy newspaper. Yet, Total Theatre still spreads the listings, news and views today as it did then. Some of these stories are fascinating, some objectionable, some downright nonsense – but fair’s fair in the discussion and love of one’s Art. Everyone can and should have their say within the pages. And there are now more pages to speak from. From 10 pages, the Contents Bingo Game has called 12 pages, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32 – HOUSE! – but there’s a little while to go before we reach the heights of the issue of Shukan Jutaku Joho (Weekly Housing Information) in January 1990, in Japan, which had 1940 pages.

Total Theatre is also proud of its colour, format and pictures. These have increased in imagination and quantity since the early days. Probably because of larger printing budgets, more exciting ideas, and cheaper printing costs. The originals were done by Kall Kwik Printers. They wisely advertised the fact in all the early issues.

In fact, it wasn’t until recently that advertisements returned and created an added source of funding. Once again, this – and the last issue – have more ads than any previous edition, but we don’t compare to the 829.54 pages sold in the October 1989 edition of Business Week. Now, that’s a lot of adverts!

During 1991, the A3 Total Theatres experimented with colour. Rather than just black on white, dark blue, green and deep purple were printed on white to create vivid and memorable editions. Today, we use more than the one colour – who can forget the damaged-retina effect of the last glow-in-the-dark pink and green cover?! But these brilliant colours are today only reserved for the cover – black on white is now sufficient for the inside pages. The layout and photos do the rest. And, here, a round of applause for Black Mime Theatre, who have managed over the years to appear on three front covers! Peta Lily and Mime Theatre Project have both shone from two each. Wait a minute! From the weird and wonderful front covers, what’s this I spy? The first Total Theatre actually has a proud and naked Bob Berky… oh, such happy times…

Total Theatre used to have a print run of 500 (yes, even of the naked man!). These days it totals 1000 and is read in most European and Scandinavian countries. Issues are regularly despatched to the US and New Zealand, too. Once, one was posted on request to Columbia. But, as many issues are shared by large groups, the readership is actually far higher than the basic 1000 and was recently estimated at between 2000 to 2500. The largest circulation of a periodical is over 28.5 million copies monthly – it is Reader’s Digest. The British portion totals 1.5 million. Now, that’s a lot of members!

I notice that cartoons have re-emerged after many years. Good! More humour, less seriousness. Especially if Total Theatre hits the streets. It is already on sale in a few selected venues. But, a word of warning. Can The Management really expect a commercial success without The Van? The vehicle I refer to is a small but happy touring van that appeared around the Touring News Section between 1987 and 1989. This cheerful friend multiplied as the early issues came out. They peaked at six miniature baby vans and then – nothing. I demand we find those touring vans and bring them back! All messages of support to the MAG office. After all, as we face up to our second decade we may as well drive there in comfort. We will soon be a teenager, full of imagination and pubescent angst… oh, indeed, such happy times…

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-3
p. 9