For the past few weeks, I’ve been more and more curious about physical theatre, mime and clowning and how much the body can
say without words. As a result, the London International Mime Festival seemed the perfect event to attend my first show of 2014. The French company MPTA (les mains, les pieds et la tête aussi) made its debut at the festival almost 10 years ago and returns this year with A bas bruit.
The show is choreographed around the philosophy of walking (la marche). As I watched the performance tonight, I could just imagine the fun the company must have had devising and workshopping their ideas around the activity of walking. “The simple act of walking reveals who a man is”, we hear (Frédéric Gros). But what if the walker has lost his purpose? Can one walk without knowing where we are going? And if so, what happens to our imagination?
What strikes us city-dwellers when watching A bas bruit is that we hardly ever “stroll”. “The luxury of strolling is to do nothing while all around are busily anticipating something or someone” (Gros). As the actors wander along a treadmill, leaving it at times to find their individuality but then being sucked in by it once more, or climb around a rolling wheel and try to be as wild and creative with their bodies as possible within the limited space, we observe them steering towards “delirium”.
One sequence performed by Mitia Fedotenko starts by showing him trapped under a platform. Once he escapes, he’s delighted by his physical freedom but develops awkward movements, as he doesn’t know where to start his new journey. This awkwardness introduced a clowning element to the scene. The feeling of gracelessness starts within the character, but becomes so strong that he hears the voices around him starting to laugh at him. This may be what happens to those who are too eccentric for society.
Another scene showed an intensely lit Cyrille Musy wearing sunglasses while walking down the treadmill. Behind him was a screen showing a man walking. This reminded me of the power sunglasses have when you are walking down a sunny street and when the music you are creating in your head helps you gain confidence, as if you were in a film! You are still just walking, but there is a narrative in your head which can totally affect you.
Finally, Elise Legros’s powerful dance moves presented the contradiction of the expression “active melancholy” (Gros). The fact that she repeats some movements over and over show that she is looking for a logic to her actions. When her partner walks with her, she feels there is meaning to it all. When she is alone again, she gives way to melancholy.
I truly enjoyed the philosophy behind MPTA’s production and was pleasantly surprised by this mesmerising piece of circus art.