Mimetic festival 2014 & Nothing

Posted on November 22, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

old vic tunnels old vic tunnelsThe vaults


Around this time last year, I saw a few puppetry performances at the Suspense festival (see my previous blog entry here), but for some reason, the festival is not taking place this year. However, all is not lost as there is Pie’s Mimetic Festival, a two week celebration of the emerging devised, physical and visual theatre, mime, puppetry and cabaret.

The last time I visited the Old Vic tunnels was when my friend and I saw the immersive and theatrical show by the cabaret group Boom Boom Club about 2 years ago. Now this unique and atmospheric venue has been transformed into an arts platform and renamed The Vaults with several theatre spaces, gallery, bar and a screening room filled with deck chairs.


The vaults


As always, I found it hard to pick from an interesting array of performances, but I settled to see two within one evening. The first one I saw was "First Draft" created by Open Heart Surgery, and brilliantly performed by the two young and talented Charlotte Baseley and Louise Callaghan.

Open Heart Surgery Theatre is a new London-based physical theatre company founded by two Canadian theatre artists. Their show, "First Draft" is inspired by conversations about war and E.M. Forster’s "The Machine Stop", which explores a fast-paced world in contrast to a future world that exists in a protection unit far away from the Earth’s surface. The two performers play a multitude of characters, and they provide many sweet, amusing and provocative moments throughout the show. However, I feel that the show is trying to convey too many ideas and messages; though many of them are undeveloped, which is a shame because I really enjoyed the performances by the two young actresses. The concept 'less is more' applies to not only in design; in this case, the show would be much better if less ideas and messages are crammed into such a short performance time.

'Buddhism: is it just for Losers?' from Silvia Mercuriali & Matt Rudkin on Vimeo.


The second show was "Buddbism: Is it just for losers?" created and performed by Brighton-based company, Inconvenient spoof. I have to admit that it was the title that grabbed by attention when I was looking at the programme. And funny enough, the show's creator, Matt Rudkin did mention why he chose this title at the end of the show.

This show is fun, satirical and bonkers, and it captures what British humour is all about. Having lived in the States for a few years, I realised that although the British and Americans share the same language, everything else seems miles apart especially when it comes to humour. In fact, not that many Americans 'get' the British houmour, and I cannot imagine this play being produced by none other than a Brit!

The show is about Matt Rudkin, whose mind is full of rational thoughts; he just can't help thinking and analysing everything and so he has to see alternative therapy to 'cure' this symptom. A very intriguing and 'current' topic for a theatre show.

I think the first half of the show is more engaging, whereas the second half is slightly loose and inconsistent. Having said that, it is still a hilarious and thought-provoking show with excellent performances and creative use of props, costumes and puppetry.

Throughout the show, there is no mention of Buddhism until the very end, only at the sharing session! Having been to many Buddhist groups and retreats, I am familiar with the terms they use, and so I found the inside jokes particularly hilarious. I suspect that Matt is a practitioner, but it's interesting that he is able to step back and poke fun at the practice (though not in a nasty way). Not only do they mention John Cage's silent piece, 4′33″, they also invite the audience to meditate with them. I have never meditated at a theatre performance before, but I guess there is always a first time for everything!


The vaults camden people's theatre

Left: Pi's bar at The Vaults; Right: Preshow at the Camden People's theatre including audience and performers


I have read quite a lot of positive reviews about "Nothing", an award-winning play by a new graduate company, Barrel Organ from the University of Warwick. This is their debut show and it is series of eight monologues spoken by characters feeling a disconnect with the world around them, and is performed in a fresh and unrehearsed order. Upon arrival at the Camden People's theatre, the audience (and performers) would wait in the cafe area, and later be led into a room of random seating. A member of the audience is then asked to pick a number and a name out of three, then the named performer who is sitting among the audience would start the monologue.

Throughout the show, seemingly random people among the audience would suddenly start talking, move around the room and at times, monologues would even overlap. This refreshing way of performing is highly engaging because you are never quite sure if the person next to you or opposite you is a performer or not. The show is simple and yet inventive, and the monologues are related to issues that young people are facing today and our dysfunctional society. Interestingly, the performers are dressed as themselves (they all carry bags and coats like the rest of the audience) and they use their real names, so this breaks down the barrier between the performers and the audience. And since the first monologue is chosen by the audience, the order of the show is never the same and the performers would improvise a new cut with every performance. This style also captures the ephemeral and transitory quality of theatre brilliantly.

It is always encouraging to see creative work produced by new voices and talents, I will certainly look forward to seeing the company's future productions.


The Mimetic festival is running until 29th November at The Vaults, Leake St London SE1 7NN.



This post was posted in London, Theatre & performance art and was tagged with London, theatre, Mimetic festival