Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.
Canadian Mime Theatre
Canadian Mime Theatre
Any art form has two primary elements; basic technique, and imaginative development of this technique. Because mime is not often seen by the 'general public' a mime show can use basic mime techniques with great success. But generally this success is a 'oncer' and if mime is to develop into a popular art form, it cannot continue relying on its basic tricks as how pieces for the public.
Not that I'm accusing the Canadian Mime Troupe of this; however I do see a contradiction in their work between imaginative development and these basic techniques. Their performance on Friday contained seventeen separate sketches, that fit into four basic categories - simple mime tricks; social situations - such as The Audience', The Doctor's Waiting Room' and The Recital'; metaphysical skits that border on modern dance such as The Search'; and those I call purely imaginative such as The Fear' and parts of 'Duet'.
I see the first three categories inherently limiting for mime and perhaps for Adrian Pecknold and his troupe.
In the show they were well done and very funny, but I have seen similar done equally well (by Living Theatre Troupe) and better (by Marcel Marceau).
They left no lasting impact in my mind and for me it seemed as though there was little room for development. Obviously skits such as the 'Doctors Waiting Room' in which an itch is transferred from one patient to another tap a very old joke that is still viable; and perhaps it is funny because its so familiar. But all such skits bore little concrete relationship to reality they were acted out in an abstract realm of their own.
They were familiar situations, but presented in a vacuum. Perhaps this is just a personal prejudice about mime that I'm expressing, rather than a valid comment on the show. Perhaps it is a prejudice against overseas performers; because I thought the last skit - an ice-hockey game done to strobe lights was very effective, but again limited. For a start it was using an old technical trick, and also bore little relationship to the audience - how many of us have seen a game of ice-hockey?
Whether all this is my limited viewpoint or a valid comment is hard to decide. All I can say is that a good percentage of the audience would have described the show as "good light entertainment" rather than "electrifying" or "stunning".
There were, however, very exciting moments that I thought showed an imaginative use of the art form. For example the skit 'The Pear", and parts of "Duet" such as when one performer used another as a towel and a shower. And the end of the 'Lone Ranger' when fingers spread lowered behind the other hand represented a sunset.
Again it may be my personal taste that isolates such instances. But it seemed to me that they were a genuine development from the basic techniques of mime rather than simply variations on a theme.
After the performance I could not hlep thinking about the future of mime as an art form - where can it go from here?
It doesn't seem to me there are many avenues open if this performance is any indication.
Now you may think this is all so much bullshit. I admit I have become dissillusioned with a lot of theatre because of what I see as its elitist nature - and that is a political value judgement. Thats the spectacles I see things through at the moment. I find its no longer possible for me to go to a performance and say that was quite nice, and leave it at that. There is a little man inside my head analysing the wider implications of it.
If you have comments to make on this I would be pleased to hear them via the pages of Salient.
— Gerard Couper.