Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 / Lyric Studio, London W6
Opened 24 / 21 January, 2008
**** / **

It is not yet time to ask whether the London International Mime Festival is still necessary, but it is certainly the case that the various flavours of physical, visual and interdisciplinary work gathered in this fortnight under the umbrella of “mime” are much more familiar to audiences now than when the Festival was founded in 1977. Crossover between genres and forms is almost routine now, and there are a number of recognised and trusted brands and outlets, such as the Aurora Nova venue on the Edinburgh Fringe, where the Sadari Movement Laboratory’s version of Woyzeck was lauded last summer.
This Korean company has taken Georg Büchner’s unfinished, fragmentary yet seminal 1836 play, which anticipated Expressionism by almost a century, and through a vigorous physical interpretation have paradoxically imbued it with grace and delicacy. Even its notes of humour seem gentler. The programme notes speak of director Do-Wan Im and his eleven performers “using chairs as a changeable metaphor”, which is precious but accurate. Apart from arranging their wooden chairs to indicate various locations from funfair to forest the performers conduct military drill with them, use them as pillories and so on; in the medical examination scene, Jae-Won Kwon as Woyzeck lies rigid, supported only by the backs of two upright chairs at shoulder and ankle. The tango nuevo music of Astor Piazzolla infuses the action with a yearning which is at once sensual and melancholy.
Algerian-born Allel Nedjari and Israeli Amit Lahav, the duo who constitute Gecko, are literally The Arab And The Jew in their piece about the conflict which bedevils their peoples. They are extremely conscious of the sensitivity of the issue, and the readiness of numerous viewers to over-interpret every little moment. Perhaps as a consequence, in 50 minutes they say nothing much at all, either literally or figuratively. Two men fall to earth after a restaurant explosion. They quarrel over an orange in an otherwise bare square of sand; they box; they conduct a dialogue in which words are replaced by artillery fire; they engage in violent slapstick to Spike Jones’ version of “You Always Hurt The One You Love”. Ho, I’m afraid, hum. Little of Gecko’s trademark games with space and dimensional orientation (which way is up?) is evident, and even less of originality in either questioning or observation.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2008

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage