It’s fair to say that, to a lot of people, mime consists of a man in makeup, wearing white gloves and a stripy top, making big-fish-little-fish-cardboard-box style hand gestures. But Theatre Re is here to show us how it should be done. Their fast paced, imaginative and ultra skilled act will have you amazed at how thrilling mime can really be.
Guillaume Pigé and Malik Ibheis work seamlessly together as two brothers fighting for the attentions of a beautiful and alluring tightrope walker, played by Selma Roth. Dressed in Clockwork Orange inspired distressed off-white suits, with perfectly painted faces, Pigé and Ibheis used striking, sharp movements to mime their playful interest in Roth’s tutu clad leading lady. Her expressive, flowing gestures worked beautifully as she played the innocent but tempting tightrope walker. As they compete for her attention, their characters are quickly established without a whisper of speech. The sheer energy of these three performers is utterly astonishing when combined with their wonderfully inventive methods of communicating purely with animated facial expressions, hilarious gestures and decisive, potent movements.
The live music by Alex Judd that accompanied the dancers was intelligently created using a loop pedal, a keyboard, a violin, an accordion and cleverly timed clapping. Judd is clearly an incredibly skilled musician, whose sound enhanced and complemented the performance perfectly, setting each scene and loading each moment with emotion.
Each scene brought new ideas that were highly original. The deftness and balance of Roth was impressive, to say the least, as she slyly led the two boys on an imaginative journey. Her precise, defined movements built up to moments of perfect tension. The group cultivates frantic climaxes then followed by sensitive, still, contemplative moments. As they travelled on land, swum through water and flew through air, the perfectly timed lighting enhanced every moment, creating shadows and differentiating landscapes with colour.
The physical interaction between each character was a joy to watch, trusting each other to carry, push, pull and swoop their rag doll bodies. With only an old paint splattered ladder, they created beautiful wings; with the simple microphone lead they mimed tightrope walking, puppet string and playful swings. The microphone itself was an ingenious motif. It constantly tempted them to speak, leading us to believe in the possibility, but it was only used cleverly to loop soft hums and claps.
Ultimately, this is a performance about the balance of power and the dangers of control, leading the piece to take a darker and more sinister turn, which is executed with incredible skill as the performers movements become violent. Although there are some scenes that could have been clearer, this is a wonderful piece of physical theatre. If you don’t think mime is your thing, Theatre Re’s beautifully moving Little Soldiers could be the show to change your mind.