London Mime Competition on the Barbican

Posted on March 1, 2022


Pictured: Shantala Shivalingappa in asH, a bit by Aurélien Bory. A part of the London Mime Competition. {Photograph} by Aglae Bory.

Over time, London’s annual Mime Competition has developed right into a seize bag of theatrical exercise meshing motion, music and speech. Its worldwide array of artists attracts viewers of all ages, who’re presumably the boldest adventurers round as a result of they by no means know what to anticipate.

Within the Pit on the Barbican Centre, Thick & Tight produced a clutch of quick items, Quick & Candy, that ranged from nonsensical portraits of Rasputin and Edith Sitwell – are you aware who they’re? – to a pretentious tackle Noh theatre, an instance of latest choreography that provides it a foul identify.

For 4 minutes, Harry Alexander impersonated Twiggy at her go-go-dancing coolest, carrying a yellow minidress and vinyl boots and lip-syncing her wispy voice. For ten minutes, a small muscular girl, Azara Meghie, projected Grace Jones’ edgy aggressive method and throaty singing. For one more 4 minutes, Tim Spooner and Daniel Hay-Gordon, one of many firm’s founders, mimicked a chattering housewife raving about some web curtains. I later realized that “Curtain Girl,” on which they based mostly their routine, is a YouTube sensation, however I couldn’t make head or tail of it on stage.

Connor Scott’s eight minutes as Sid Vicious concerned an air guitar, extra lip syncing, and wildly thrashing limbs and jumps that remodeled a scarcity of inhibition right into a harmful device of self-harm. Distinctively, Scott’s crazed efficiency drew an electrifying portrait out of a bodily scribble. Many of the different picks, meant to “rejoice and showcase folks in all their variations,” regarded to me like old school parody, or karaoke with imitative gestures, wrapped within the post-modern reliance on references for content material.


Publicity picture for Thick & Tight’s Quick & Candy. A part of the London Mime Competition. Picture by Darren Evans.

The next night time, within the Barbican Theatre, the French designer/scenographer/director Aurélien Bory led the Indian kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivlingappa and the percussionist Loïc Schild into an hour-long duet, aSH, designed expressly for his or her exceptional abilities however dominated by Bory’s scenic results.

Behind the solo Shivlingappa choreographed for herself hung a big function of metallic paper with a presence as commanding as hers. Whereas she explored the various faces of Shiva, the Hindu god of dance, creation and destruction, the paper rattled, billowed, threatened to swallow her, and inadvertently stole her delicate sinuous thunder.

Pulled downward, the silvery backdrop turned a floorcloth on which Shivlingappa painted a spiral of liquid earlier than sifting ashes over it. On the coronary heart of her dance, her toes traced patterns of interlocking curves within the ash, recalling the Indian kolam, a flour drawing created on the bottom within the morning, then erased by the wind and redrawn the subsequent day. Solely these hypnotic moments allow us to take up Schild’s fascinating rhythms and Shivalingappa’s elegant lyricism and taut focus with out distractions. 

Because it was hauled as much as hold vertical once more, the foil shed its ritualistic photographs and provided its remaining mud to the dancer, who pressed her physique towards it in a damaged frieze of angular poses.

Longing to see extra of her and fewer of the director, I discovered the décor intrusive moderately than inspiring. Although I perceive it was meant to associate the performers, its malleable shining floor and amplified sounds nagged always for my consideration.

The London Mime Competition has apparently advanced into the brand new Dance Umbrella, that’s, the event for locating unclassifiable artistry we would by no means have discovered some other manner. Although I’m all for experiments bearing any labels they select, I hope that Shivalingappa will return to London in a season with a special title. Maybe then her splendid dancing may have the stage to itself.


Barbara Newman

Barbara Newman’s books about ballet embrace Grace underneath Strain; The Illustrated E-book of Ballet Tales for youngsters; a quantity of interviews, Hanging a Steadiness, and its follow-up, By no means Removed from Dancing. She has written for Dancing Instances since 1984 and served because the dance critic for Nation Life from 1990 to 2016. She archives all her work at http://barbaranewmandance.web