Mark Fisher looks forward to a week of physical theatre that aims to put mime centre stage.
It seems ironic that a style of performance as thoroughly developed as physical theatre should still be dogged by image problems. Despite a leading company like Theatre de Complicite appearing at the National Theatre — and sell-out runs in Scotland and despite a round of eager young companies emerging with each wave of graduates from the Lecoq and Gaulier schools, practitioners of non-text based theatre (which doesn‘t mean no text) still feel they have a lot of preconceptions to overturn. Men in stripeyjumpers and white faces. bumping into invisible walls. could well claim a valid part to play beneath the umbrella title of ‘physical theatre‘. but that particular style was well on its way out even when Kenny Everett was still lampooning it on his l970s TV show.
So to ensure that the image is brought up to date. Scottish practitioners are taking action — getting physical as they get political. The success of last year’s Day of Action has encouraged the Mime Forum Scotland to branch out into a whole week of performances. workshops and discussions, showing off Scottish work in an international context and trying to give a clearer identity to a style that almost by definition covers a multitude of possibilities. The. focus of ‘More Action‘ allows practitioners to come
together at the same time as they entertain audiences and. even though there is plenty of work of this nature being performed year-round. it presents a
more solid case for funding bodies to perceive it as a = distinct branch of performance in itself.
last year‘s event had the whole 'l‘raycrse building buzzing from 10am until l()pm.‘ says Alan (‘aig of the Mime Forum. 'and we felt that that justified a whole week ofevents ‘ lly a fortunate coincidence. Benchtours‘ large—scale physical interpretation of ’/‘/n» Bridge (see review) has been scheduled into the Traverse at the same time as the More Action week
which is also presenting programmes of short works by Scottish performers. (.‘lanjamfrie‘s Blow/y
' Mime/es. “(Willi/ll] Lies and a rare performance by
[)cnmark‘s ()din Teatret. ‘We set about a tough process of negotiation and programming not only to bring Scottish companies together again. but also to invite international participants.~
Because the body is the foremost instrument of
communication in physical theatre. this international
element has traditionally been of central importance. Look at the make up of lienchtours. 'l'heatre dc Complicite or any ofthe key movers and shakers in this field and chances are you'll see a mix of nationalities as varied as the mix of performance skills. From a British perspective. the need for internationalism is particularly strong because of the predominance of the neck-up speech-based style of acting perhaps an inevitable off~shoot of any culture lucky enough to haye produced a wordsmith ofthe quality of William Shakespeare. It‘s not so much that the Mime Forum is against the written word. it's just that it can see the potential for the kind of lateral leaps that leading with the body can produce.
‘We have certainly seen a surge of activity in new writing in Scotland over the past few years.‘ reads a Mime l’orum statement. ‘but this other side of exploration and development. done by the movement and yisual artists themselves. is still woefully neglected.‘ It is a neglect by which the mainstream of theatre is impoverished. finding itself trnable to adapt and respond to the specialised skills of physically trained performers one w as even advised to remove his l.ccoq experience from his (‘\' in case it counted against him But surely it can only be to the benefit of theatre as a w hole if. as in some cultures. we start to take for granted the corrrbined talents from dance. to circus skills to puppetry that our performers can and should possess. lf the More Action week only gets that idea across. it w ill be on the right track. .llu/‘r' (if/HUI. Traverse 'l'lmim'. Assent/2ft- Rooms and Richard Henrurm [Cum/wan .‘ll'ls‘ formula/(mt. lit/iii/urre/r. Sat /4- Sun 3/ May.
When Gary met Barry
Her name was Lola. She was in a pop song. And very popular it was too. 80 popular, in tact, that two decades alter it was written, Copacabana has grown into a lull-length musical. lane of your 12-inch ambient house remixes tor Barry Manilow. Nothing short of an all-singing, all-dancing glitzy spectacular will do.
“Copacabana has played a great part in my lite for many years,’ Manilow has said, ‘and I’ve always felt it has been a song yearning tor metamorphosis into a musical.’ Cue chirpy chappy Cary Wilmot, tresh lrom Me and My Girl and Carmen Jones, to play the male romantic lead opposite young unknown llicola Dawn as lola
She plays the aspiring hopeful who
‘ wanders into a New York club. He plays the bartender who swings an
audition for her. And yes, you’ve guessed it, they both end up as the star attractions at the Copacabana. Until, that is, she gets whisked away to the rival Club Tropicana, which means that George Michael will have to think twice it he’s planning to write a musical. But that’s showbiz tor you. Set in the 19405, the sixteen-song musical is co-written by Jack Feldman and Bruce Sussman and produced in a style described, acronymically, as ‘MTV meets MGM’, although its debut production is entirely British. ‘Barry Manilow says he’s going to be in the back row every night,’ quips Cary Wilmot, ‘which makes the prices in the back row very good value! He very much wants to be hands on. He wants to get back to arranging and writing and that’s what he’s done with this.’ All together now: ‘Down at the Copa . . . Copacabana . . .’ (Mark Fisher) Copacabana, Edinburgh Playhouse, Wed 18—Sat 11 Jun.
The List (i l‘) .\lay l‘)‘)4 51