The Playlist: Helen Lannaghan

Helen Lannaghan is co-director of the London International Mime Festival, with Joseph Seelig, which she joined in 1986. She co-founded Mime Action Group (MAG) in 1982, a lobbying organisation with the aim of raising the profile of British mime / physical theatre and demanding a more representative share of Arts Council funding, taking mime from the dance to the theatre department, with its bigger budget. MAG eventually changed its name to Total Theatre Network.

1. Mime What’s That?

30 years later and we haven’t moved on very much with changing public attitudes to mime – the audience at the London International Mime Festival (LIMF) grows largely through word of mouth, spread by people who have discovered the wide range of work we present and who love its ‘otherness’. Very few would now brand themselves as ‘mime companies’ by including the m word in their company name, but in the early 80s we had Moving Picture Mime Show, London Mime Theatre (aka Nola Rae), Mime Theatre Project, and Black Mime Theatre, to name a few.

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2. Everything Moves – Jacques Lecoq 1921-99

Certainly the most influential teacher of so many of the artists we have programmed, Jacques presented his lecture demonstration Tout Bouge at LIMF’82. I only met him once when he taught the Mime Summer School in Glasgow – John Mowat told me he’d got a wooden leg, which I believed until I knew better. I thought he walked on it marvellously well. The school continues in Paris and we are delighted that in January 2020 his daughter Pascale will come to London with Jos Houben and Jason Turner to present a 5-day course as part of the festival.

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3. Andrew Dawson, Absence and Presence

I’d known Andy since 1983 when I was fresh out of university, working in the administration team of The Place Theatre. We presented Mime Theatre Project’s iconic and commercially successful Thunderbirds FAB as part of a mime season in a LIMF off-year, when the Arts Council decided to alternate Dance Umbrella and LIMF, a decision that was quickly reversed. His show Absence and Presence was worlds away from this, a thoughtful, moving and sensitive tribute to his father that realigned his artistic path in a very different direction.

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4. London International Mime Festival – Then and Now

For those of us who remember bow-tie wearing Joseph with his curly hair, Mim evokes the atmosphere of those early Mime Festival years and the London scene so well. My own first encounter with Joseph was in a pub near the Cockpit, a lugubrious figure propping up the bar, cigarette and drink in hand. It took me a few years to summon up the confidence to even speak to him…

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5. The Works: Complicite

Theatre de Complicite have been hugely influential from the early 1980s onwards and their new shows were hotly anticipated events, back in the days before the internet and social media, when news was spread by word of mouth / City Limits / Time Out, followed by constantly ringing the box office from a landline in an attempt to reserve tickets, which could only be held for three working days without payment… A company that was never held back by the ‘mime’ tag, even though they used it a lot in their early work, and they featured at LIMF many times.

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Referenced Festivals