Still Life: Flesh – London International Mime Festival, Barbican

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writers: Sophie Linsmaux, Aurelio Mergola, and Thomas van Zuylen

Directors: Sophie Linsmaux and Aurelio Mergola

For a group of immensely assured performers, the Belgian mime company Still Life have produced a show chock-full of uncertainty. Is it comedy? There’s an awful lot of death and despair if so. Black farce? It keeps bringing into focus large, important, life-changing topics which it treats with respect. That isn’t very farcical. Mostly, it wants to disconcert its audience and make them look again at life changing events. It does that very well indeed.

The evening consists of four playlets. The first is a relatively serious take on bereavement, as a man sits by a hospital bed. The piece is 30 minutes long, and 20 of those minutes are spent focussed on death and loss. The first 10 minutes, however, involve getting wrapped up in hospital scrubs, and obsessive hand-sanitising. That is how the show works – hand-sanitising farce and then a serious contemplation of mortality, which is quite difficult for the audience to process.

The second piece celebrates new beginnings and revived romance through the medium of plastic surgery, and it doesn’t pretend to be profound, but does involve some interesting physical theatre. One of the features of this Mime company is their disregard for the conventional precision of movement that is the main attraction for most mimes. They move like ordinary people, they use props that are actually there, rather than conjuring them from thin air. This is also a touch disconcerting when the audience expects on-point choreography and invisible wine glasses. This company uses actual wine glasses and fills them with real fizzy beverages. Weird.

The third piece is the most fun. A VR headset enables a woman to act out the Kate Winslett moments from the movie Titanic, with special focus on any moments that also feature Leonardo di Caprio. People in VR headsets look funny, and they look especially funny if they’re making love to an invisible Jack, or desperately fleeing from destruction in a featureless changing room completely devoid of threatening floods. There’s obviously a bit of death and loss involved in the story of the Titanic, but it isn’t the thing that attracts most attention. That would be bumbling round the stage in a set of outsize goggles.

The final piece starts at a wake and gets wilder and more anarchic, and climaxes with gallons of water, real water, soaking the actors. It’s a skewed view of mourning, of sibling rivalry, of many ways not to respect a loved one’s remains. Funny, energetic, disrespectful, and a bit too long, which is possibly the final takeaway from the evening. No-one is ever trapped in an invisible cube, though.

Runs until 28 January 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Playful, problematic, provocative

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub