Mime. Part 1.

Marcel Marceau: Angel or Demon?

What led to Festive Factory’s interest in Mime? In a relationship that travels from Love to Hate to Love, Sue gives her perspective of the state of Mime and its public perception in Australia today.

Festive Factory uses Mime throughout most of their acts in subtle and integrated ways. Many of their characters use elements of the art form without relying on the clichés of the 20s, 30s and 40s. Audiences enjoy the Mime performances without realising which skills that they are actually enjoying.

However for the specific requests of ‘Mime wanted,’ Festive Factory is compelled to offer white face, white glove classic looks from the 40s, as to most clients, this is what Mime is, and All that it is.
Sue gives a little of her experience and take on the state of Mime in this country.

'Parcelle Marceau'

Marcel Marceau, the most famous Mime Artist of all time perhaps, has undoubtly given much to the art form but also set it back years from progressing in this country. What he has done for popularising Mime has also detracted and distracted from this arts’ development within lay communities.

When I saw Marcel Marceau the Mime Artist, as a child, I was totally captivated by every thing he did and was. He was mesmerising.

When I was a teenager, I saw him again and thought I remembered the same show, the same characters. I became very angry and felt sold out. I turned my back on this love. (Somewhere even as a child, I believed that to be an artist is about development and growth, neither of which I detected in Marceau’s work).

As a young adult I reasoned that I shouldn’t reject what I don’t know. I vowed that I would train in the discipline if I could get overseas. When I did, I learnt of the depth and breadth of a skill that certainly WAS hijacked by Marcel Marceau in the most base and populist manner conceivable!

These days it seems that everybody is ‘doing’ mime. But is it extending the art form or recapping the ‘same ol same ol’ just as Marcel Marceau did for all those decades? And how often is it done without regard for either skill or respect of the amazing artists of yester year?

I trained in London in the ‘80s every day for two years: Mon – Fri. 9 am until 1pm.

With this training, it is a regular source of irritation to be confronted by two hands on an invisible wall or ‘walking against the wind’ or asked for the ‘Moon Walk’ when mentioning Mime to non-practioners.
They may simply be trying to get a grasp of a beautiful medium of expression, just as disciplined as ballet and as technically difficult. But if enquiring of ballet dance, for example, do they throw their arms above their heads and perform a pirouette? Somehow, it appears that mime whilst as challenging to perform remains devoid of the respect it deserves. Mime remains in the minds of many, a pour cousin as an independent art form.

MussoI blame the popularity of Marceau that has in Australia, imprisoned Mime in the White Face, and White Gloves of the 40s. To most people, this is what Mime is: A costume playing for the most part with invisible objects or pantomime emotions. Consequently this is the only mime that sells in this country. And therefore this is what we are captivated to sell also. It appears that Australia, with its small population and even smaller arts communities lags behind Europe by around 20 or more years. A sobering thought when I consider the exciting developments awaiting to hit the stages and streets in this country; developments that will already be passe by they time they arrive on our shores.

When all is said and done, it remains that Mime overtly and subtlely remains an intrinsic skill in the Festive Factory arsenal, bringing joy to thousands whether they are aware or other wise. Perhaps the greatest skill is to not be recognised using the tools of the trade.

Next week. A History of Mime Arts. The Players.