Arm – Mireille & Mathieu

Arm is the spooky exploration of junkyard puppetry you never thought you wanted. The stage is a landfill of dirty dolls, lumpy blankets, moth eaten chairs and a rack of flea-market clothing. This is the imaginative playground of Mireille and Mathieu, two members of one of Belgium’s oldest and legendary absurdist companies, Big in Belgium.

The tumbling and spontaneous narrative is an inspiring act of theatre.

This show is completely and utterly strange, and yet completely intuitive. Of course, the objects found in a junkyard could make an excellent set for an inspired puppet show. Every object in this landfill has a story to tell, and Mireille and Mathieu are there to bring them to life. And it is pretty hilarious. Mireille and Mathieu deftly use junk to create a hilariously dark and sometimes vulgar puppetry. The piece, happy and surrealist, steps through various associative scenes that feel as if they come from the objects themselves. The tumbling and spontaneous narrative is an inspiring act of theatre.

In Arm, they move seamlessly from baby dolls wrestling in a crib, to a gnome coming to knock on the baby dolls’ front door. One particularly hysterical moment is when Mireille and Mathieu use blankets to make their whole bodies become talking puppets. But just after this, they use the blanket as a skirt as Mathieu lifts Mireille up and she becomes a giant. It is this tumbling sort of inventive work that makes this piece quite special.

While I thoroughly enjoy each individual vignette Mireille and Mathieu offered the audience, I do miss an overarching narrative that would have brought me closer to the puppeteers. Because I could see the puppeteers for the entire duration of the show, I wanted to know about their relationship to each other. I did not feel for them much and I wish they had connected with the audience more.

Mireille and Mathieu as performers, are always trying to have fun, they often turn to the audience to making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. They ask whether or not we would like to see something again, if yes, they are likely to do it three more times.

Reviews by Blair Simmons

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★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Mireille & Mathieu unpack their paraphernalia at a flea-market. Objects and toys turn out to be bursting with stories. These little scenes: gentle, poetic, cruel or comical, follow in quick succession. Within this happy delirium, nothing’s taken seriously in a field of exploration and absurd experiments... Uncomplicated, excessive, surrealistic Belgian humour bursts with delightful absurdities and hilarious scenes. Their style is a cascade of associative imagination; what gets Mireille & Mathieu going is their impulsive fantasy. One of Belgium’s oldest and legendary absurdist companies makes its Edinburgh debut as part of Big in Belgium 2017.