Where is British Mime Going?

Feature in Issue 5-1 | Spring 1993

Still going strong after fifteen years, the London International Mime Festival has once again been and gone, bringing a mix of established companies and new work in its wake.

There were few up and coming British companies this year, although having made their debuts at last years festival, both Commotion and Brouhaha returned with new shows. The usual spread of venues were included, the bulk of the performances taking place at The South Bank Centre and Battersea Arts Centre, with further shows at the ICA, French Institute, Cochrane Theatre, Riverside, Young Vic, and the fairly recently established Holborn Centre.

It is perhaps taken for granted that newer, more experimental pieces will be performed in one of Battersea's Studio Theatres; however, Joseph Seelig, director of the Festival is concerned that LIMF should be a place for experimentation, much as he encourages the development of new work. The Festival is, after all, a high-profile event where audiences expect to see the best of performers in the field of Mime and Physical Theatre – so, where can practice take place?

In London especially, there is a woeful lack of reasonably sized, reasonably priced venues where new companies can have the opportunity to practise their craft. If the Festival is to have more input from British talent, then this issue needs some serious addressing. After all, quality is of the utmost importance when stating a case for Mime and Physical Theatre, and quality work cannot develop without support.

A number of people expressed both their surprise and concern that many shows this year did not seem to be rooted in a physical/visual base. If texts are to become an integral part of our work then we need to include writers; if character development and storylines are becoming essential then we also need mimes to be trained actors. In short, the more essences of mainstream theatre that mime adopts, the more broad-based the training for performing this kind of theatre needs to be.

Generally speaking, the shows I went to see were very well attended and the Festival does appear to be extremely popular. It is becoming apparent however that, with a largely European input, support for this kind of work is greater in Europe than in the UK. We do however have a good deal of talent in this country that is hindered by all its efforts going into the search for funding and not development of the artform. It is perhaps significant that a number of our top companies are now choosing to reside and work abroad; it will be interesting to see what next year’s Festival brings as a result of this. In the meantime perhaps we would all do well to remember that perhaps a country gets the art it deserves…

Referenced Festivals

This article in the magazine

Issue 5-1
p. 17