Our guide to the London International Mime Festival

london international mime festival 2020

When looking for things to do in January, few compare to the epic series of performances running as a part of the London International Mime Festival.

They are set to take over the Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre, Shoreditch Town Hall, Wilton’s Music Hall and Sadler’s Wells Theatre – so many spots either in or on the fringes of the Square Mile.

And now in their 44th year, London’s international contemporary visual theatre festival is as big as ever. 10 overseas companies join eight British groups to put on a diverse range of shows – prepare to laugh, cry and be totally and utterly confused.

Mime is meant to challenge traditional theatre after all. It has always been on the fringes, daring viewers to see art, dance and music from different perspectives. None of this year’s shows will bore. Far from it. They will make you think a little deeper. Broaden your usual arts and culture experiences by checking out some of these events taking place in and around the City of London.

Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre is right at the core of this year’s London International Mime Festival, opening up the Barbican Theatre, Pit, and cinemas to performers.

Things kick off with the Australian group Fleur Elise Noble performing their show ROOMAN. It is like an immersive pop-up book or graphic novel coming to life with a rich tapestry of puppetry, projection, animation, dance, music and sound all coming together.

In ROOMAN, a young woman only finds relief from the surroundings of her monotonous, monochrome existence when she meets a kangaroo man in her dreams. Obsessed by his colourful, wondrous and limitless universe, she pursues a dangerous path to spend more time with him. Soon she must make a choice: to give up or to wake up.

news london
Nick Lehane’s Chimpanzee. Photo by Richard Termine

Next up is Peeping Tom performing the UK premier of Child (Kind). Between dance and physical theatre, Peeping Tom are known for surprising audiences with surreal, unsettling imagery and phenomenal choreography that defies logic. Child (Kind) explores perceptions of childhood in a super trippy way.

Puppetry is a big part of the festival and few do it quite as well as Nick Lehane in his show Chimpanzee. In this extraordinary and heart-breaking puppet play, a life-sized chimpanzee escapes the despair of her captive existence by piecing together memories of her childhood in a human home. We don’t want to talk about any more of it – we’ll get too emotional.

The last main event at the Barbican Centre comes in the form of Kiss & Cry Collective’s Cold Blood. In this wonderfully whimsical production, the story of seven surprising deaths takes audiences into an array of scenarios that touch on the fleeting fragility of life. Watch as both performers and crew conjure visuals onstage or simply succumb to the beautifully detailed kaleidoscopic vistas appearing on film.
Barbican Centre, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS

Wilton’s Music Hall

The oldest music hall in London will be hosting Told by an Idiot’s The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Playing fast and loose with the facts, and with an original piano score composed by Mercury Award Nominee Zoe Rahman played live each night, this is a hilarious and deeply moving homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever. Be transported back to 1910 and follow these two men change the world of mime forever, properly putting the profession on the internal stage.
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley E1 8JB

Shoreditch Town Hall

Head towards East London to see the London premiere of This Time by Ockham’s Razor between 8 and 19 January. With a cast ranging in age from 13 to 60, and performed with unique aerial equipment specially created for the piece, This Time explores time and transformation and the ups and downs of family relationships, and shows how we are strong in different ways at different times of life. Suspended high above or swinging perilously close to ground, Ockham’s Razor’s superb artists amaze with new takes on trapeze and cradle routines in this highly unusual visual theatre drama
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street EC1V 9LT

london magazine
Be blown away by the acrobatic prowess of Ockham’s Razor

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Thick and Tight absolutely smashed it at last year’s London International Mime Festival, selling out their shows and gaining rave reviews for each performance. They will be showing their Romancing the Apocalypse for the first time in London from 9-11 January. This programme of brand-new works combines dance, mime, queer culture and outsider art all in one big show.

NOW READ: Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells

Apparitions of infamous and remarkable characters from contemporary history take shape throughout the evening; Derek Jarman and Marcel Proust, Winston Churchill, Andy Warhol and a two-headed Barbara Cartland. Thick & Tight strive to unveil these lives and souls in new, explosive and challenging ways; a full and raucous evening of entertainment with an underlying desire to reveal our shared humanity.
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TN

Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre is hosting three shows this year too. The first is BOYS by the British group – The PappyShow. Celebrating male tenderness, silliness, vulnerability and community with a cast of young men, BOYS gives us a window to share their experiences, their hopes, families and globe-spanning heritage. In their stories, brought alive by impressive physical performance, you will possibly see reflections of your brothers, friends, parents and lovers.

business magazine
BOYS: fall in love with The PappyShow’s representations of masculinity. Photo by Dina T

Joli Vyann is up next with Anima for just two nights (22 & 23 January). The new show portrays the delicate connection between two people and takes us on a journey, from the cradle to the grave, through an intimate look at the simple, yet constant, act of breathing. How does breath affect our emotions? Our physicality? Our very being? The two performers and a live Taiko drummer push themselves to the limits of their physicality – using dance, circus, voice and wind instruments – their breath literally becomes the soundscape for the performance – in a unique blend of dance and acrobatics.

Festivities end at the Southbank Centre with Wes Peden’s Zebra from 24-26 January. Creating never-before-seen sequences of evolving shapes and constellations with incredible new throws and catches, Perden transforms his props into mesmerising waves of movement and gives astonishing new life to vinyl records.
Southbank Centre SE1 8XX

Feature Image: Opposable Thumb’s Coulrophobia. Photo by Adam Laity.
Follow City Matters on Twitter and Instagram.