London Mime festival 2015 & more

Posted on February 15, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

While I am still sorting out my photo collection and blog entries on Portugal, I shall review some amazing performances that I saw after my holiday at the London International Mime festival in January. Luckily, I had pre-booked the tickets in advanced, because most of the shows I saw were sold out weeks before the performances.

The first show I saw was 'Plexus' at Sadlers Wells, conceived by French artistic director Aurélien Bory (founder of Compagnie 111) for the extraordinary Japanese classically-trained ballet dancer Kaori Ito.

The description of the show is as follows: "Entrapped by five thousand cords, a forest of brilliantly lit strings, a warrior-woman conquers her environment so that she floats, like a black angel, in a sumptuous cage that she can only leave by vanishing completely."

The above paragraph basically sums up the show. Ito spends most of the performance being 'trapped' within the stage set of five thousand cords, where she uses her body to explore the space and her body limits. Ito is utterly mesmerising to watch, but my opinion, it is the stunning set design and visual effects that steals the show. There is no narrative to this poetic and beautiful piece, but it is so visually compelling that one is not necessary. It is an artistic and creative triumph for both Bory and Ito.


 Plexus / Compagnie 111 / Aurélien Bory / Kairo Ito


I had no idea what was in store at 'Dogugaeshi', except that it is inspired by traditional Japanese folk puppetry. Basil Twist is a third generation Americian puppeteer who has worked for films, operas, Broadway shows, and collaborated with Kate Bush on her comeback concert in 2014.

I was kinda expecting to watch a puppetry performance, possibly with a narrative. Yet the puppetry turns out to be the side dish, whereas the backdrop screens are the main course. What a pleasant surprise! There is only one puppet (a white fox with a very long tail) and not much of a narrative; what the audience sees throughout the performance is merely a constant changing of paper door screens and wall patterns, which is unexpectedly mesmerising. The abstract piece is accompanied by live shamisen music performed by Japanese musician Yumiko Tanaka.

The name 'Dogugaehi' literally means 'changing, or exchange of props' in Japanese. This stage mechanism serves as a backdrop to the traditional folk puppet theatre originated on the Awaji island at the beginning in the 16th or 17th century. Video projection is one of the modern elements that Basil Twist injected into his version of this traditional craft, and it works wondrously. The piece captures the intrinsic essence of the tradition, and it is an intriguing succession of visual experiences, which is refreshing and rare to see in western theatre.


Dogugaeshi by Basil Twist


It is hard to summarise '32 Rue Vandenbranden' by Belgian's dance theatre group Peeping Tom. It is surreal, fun, bizarre, dark, and rather confusing. The hypersurreal setting and odd/dysfunctional behaviour of the six cast members seem to capture the audience's imagination initially, but as it turns darker and more subdue, the plot becomes weaker and the ending is an anticlimax which I think is a real shame. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the actors/dancers; their physical capabilities are remarkable and their use of body language reveals that speech is not always necessary in getting ideas across, even if they are exaggerated or make no sense!


32 Rue Vandenbranden by Peeping Tom


Besides the London Mime festival, I also saw two excellent dance performances elsewhere in London. The first was a triple bill dance performance by K-Arts dance company, established by Korea National University of Arts in 1997. The performance took place at Laban Theatre, which is part of the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of music and dance in Greenwich.

The three performances of the evening were: 'Hommage', 'Reflection' and 'No comment'. 'Hommage' is a piece that explores the traditional 'bow' of the eastern culture; it is a 'fusion' (I am not a fan of this term) of eastern culture, philosophy and metaphor (Buddhism) with contemporary choreographed dance movements. It is a subtle, beautiful and supple.

'Reflection' is short improvisation piece created by the dancers (mostly female), exploring his or her body movements and expressions in a unique way. The last piece 'No comment' is the most exhilarating of the three, performed by a all-male cast (who ended up running topless off stage). One notable aspect of this piece is the music, the tracks used are 'Ali Mullah' by Transglobal Underground and 'Babylon' by Goran Bregovic (one of my favourite contemporary composers). This is a truly 'global' piece with dancers showcasing their technical skills, vigorous style and six-pack bodies!

The diversity and originality of the three pieces reveal the standard of contemporary Korean dance today, and it is truly thrilling. One of the strongest aspect for me personally is the choreography, I think the subtle infusion of eastern philosophy and culture is evident even in the seemingly modern pieces, but without the cliches. This show was an eye-opener for me, and I hope that I will get more opportunities to see young Koreans dancers performing on stage in London again soon.


Can a dance performance which debuted in 1987 still excite the audience 28 years later? The answer is YES, as seen in 'What The Body Does Not Remember' performed by Belgian's dance company Ultima Vez founded by choreographer/ Photographer/filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus.

With a new cast and live music by contemporary ensemble Ictus, the award-winning debut piece performed for two nights only at Sadlers Wells as part of their world tour. Divided into several acts with no interval, the adrenaline-fuelled performance is not only exciting, it is raw, innovative, playful and unsettling. There is so much going on on stage that I could do with an extra pair of eyes to follow everything that is happening at once.

I am amazed by the fact that it still feels so fresh and modern after so many years. One of the highlights of the show is at its very end after the applause, when three members of the musical ensemble come on stage to perform without any musical instruments. What a perfect finale to an unforgettable show!


Ultima Vez — What the Body Does Not Remember



This post was posted in London, Dance, Traditional arts & crafts, Puppetry, Anything Japanese, Theatre & performance art and was tagged with London, dance, puppetry, Sadler Wells, theatre