‘La Tempesta’ in Mime

Posted on February 10, 2011

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Chocolate cakes and tape cassettes swinging from a washing line, a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves and dying clowns, an industrial robot and audacious nude performers, aerial acrobatics and melodramatic musical strains; these are just some of the theatrical treats enjoyed at this year’s International Mime Festival in London. The festival is difficult to typify. It is difficult, in fact, to typify what precisely mime is today; it seems that silence is no longer a prerequisite. Some of the performers in this year’s festival would look at home in the Cirque du Soleil, while others lack not only such acrobatic skill but also the concentrated physical control associated with traditional mime.

I went along to the ICA to see the Italian duo Anagoor perform Tempesta. The company define themselves as a ‘theatrical project’. Tempesta took as a point of reference, and as a namesake, Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione’s work La Tempesta, although they make reference to several of his works.

During the performance the pair move slowly around the stage, traveling in and out of a large constructed glass box. They repeatedly dress and undress, emerging and disappearing in the mist created by a smoke machine. Layers are built in smoke, flesh, and cloth, alluding to the slow evolution of the painting process. In sparse moments of clarity the figures pause in the pose of a Giorgione figure. Playing on two portrait-shaped video screens are snippets of the performers in the outside world. The performers mirror their filmed selves as if willing themselves into this exterior reality. The ambiguity of their interaction recalls the ambiguity of Giorgione’s painting – the nature of its subject is still debated.

Mysterious or simply pretentious? Intense and atmospheric, or boring? I would say that Tempesta occupies a grey space in-between these labels. Such an enigmatic nature welcomes personal interpretation with open arms. But it also risks not conveying any message with conviction.

Tempesta uses theatre to recreate a painting and one must ask the question: why? Watching Tempesta is indisputably a very different experience to sitting in front of a painting for an hour, but there is a niggling sense that, in spending so long exploring the nuances of Giorgione’s artworks, Anagoor have forgotten to relate it to their own world; consequently the themes and issues engaged with in Tempesta lack the bite of the contemporary.

Anagoor are on tour in Italy until the 20th February.

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Posted in: Theatre Review