Until Now

Feature in Issue 22-1 | Spring 2010

Until Now, Mimbre’s acrobatic adventure about travelling and parting, started as an outdoor show in 2009 before being taken indoors and reworked for theatres. After seeing the premiere of the new version at the London International Mime Festival, Pippa Bailey spoke to Lina Johansson, Mimbre’s performer and joint artistic director.

Pippa Bailey: How was it for you?

Lina Johansson: Monday [the opening night] we were nerved out; it’s scary bringing an outdoor show inside, the focus is more intense. We enjoyed it a lot more last night. It’s the first indoor show after ten years outdoors. We were more nervous than usual.

P.B. When it’s performed outdoors it borrows context from wherever it is performed. How did you imagine the setting for the theatre show?

L.J. The setting is a crossroads, which makes sense outside as you have a vista. There is real distance, which is lacking indoors. Outside we have to work harder to claim the space but concentrate less on the world beyond the stage. This is something like acting and we are learning.

P.B. It must be very different, having people pass by [outdoors] compared with a fixed audience in a theatre.

L.J. It’s quite nice knowing the audience won’t move. Indoors we were keen to push those theatrical moments of stillness that you struggle to find outdoors. We have also been able to include tricks we haven’t done before.

P.B. Suitcases and clotheslines have been used a lot in shows – what was your approach?

L.J. We have always done very big shows with big structures. They are difficult to tour and this is something of a joke on the street arts circuit. This was our turn to do a suitcase show, which can travel light. We had to be disciplined as the number of suitcases kept growing. The cases are sculptural and practical, for balancing and helping us find our way across the space. The clothes are a natural comment when you are on the road: they are beautiful, plus they carve through to help define and fill the space.

P.B. I wanted more information or detail from the clothes that I probably wouldn’t expect or need outside as they are not under as much scrutiny.

L.J. As with any show, ideas have been lost and simplified along the way. The show is about saying goodbye, going different ways, and this version is taking us out of our comfort zone.

P.B. I never felt sad.

L.J. We wanted to keep it light, especially last night, after the tense experience of opening.

P.B. The tea break [which happens approximately two thirds through the show] was a wonderful relief. Why do you think that is?

L.J. The physical tension of complex routines builds and our director [Leandre Ribera] decided everyone needed a break. So we break the fourth wall and offer tea and cakes. When the lights come up we are delighted to see the audience. We miss them in the dark.

P.B. You handled the audience so well; it was charming and immediately engaging. The fourth wall broke effortlessly, as I would expect from seasoned street performers.

L.J. You might not have said that on Monday – we were really thrown by the audience, but last night it really worked. And as we handed out cakes, people were so complimentary. Although I think some thought it was the end.

P.B. Mimbre is a company of three acrobatic women, which is unusual in outdoor arts, whereas on stage it is pretty ordinary, as dance and theatre are dominated by women.

L.J. It has been a big inspiration for us, being three women, and it has also been a bonus working outdoors. Although we fall into the usual roles of main base, middle base and flyer, we play with this dynamic so we all have a chance to play different roles. When you have companies of men and women it is so difficult to resist the narrative being about couples. We can express tenderness, power, and other things that are not reduced to male / female relationship dynamics. Although it may be more usual to see women performers indoors – we are acrobats and that is part of what makes us special.

Pippa Bailey saw Mimbre’s Until Now at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre on 26 January 2010. The show was presented as part of the London International Mime Festival. See www.mimefest.co.uk and, for more on the company, www.mimbre.co.uk

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 22-1
p. 30