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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 No. 3. 15th March 1972

drama — Theatre Action

page 9


Theatre Action.

"...mime is a physical approach to theatre... giving the audience the physical experience... it's much bigger than just a white face and movement." Francis Batten. Theatre Action offer examples of two styles of mime group theatre during their present season at Downstage the two items in the first half are concerned with 'basic' drama, utilising masks— "...you discover a mask... identify yourself with it... then put two masks together, work through improvisation, build a shape... two masks and an object are rich in possibilities." The 'factor' then tries to express the character of his mask through movement, and reaction to the other masks. The object(s), such as chairs, a cushion, a milk shake mixer, a newspaper provide the spur for action usually competitive. The objects shape, feel and sound when used in different ways is added to the mask characterisations. It's like watching a cartoon stip- highly enjoyable, and humourous, but, one is constantly aware that it's all a game, albeit a clever and creative game played with 'masks' and their self-imposed illusions about the nature of the 'objects', and thus their use. I was ready for both items to finish well before they did, although they both have hilarious mom ants instance the mounting frustration of the human being beset with three invisible masks, and their bewildering play with 'his' objects, a fine visual joke for the audience), And both arouse interesting ideas.

'Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight' is an example of "illusionistic mime... the body becomes different things" (a round table, a hunted bird, the seasons, beside characters). To get its audience over the credibility gap, the mimes here heeded to be a lot tighter than they were. It was very difficult at times to work out just what was being represented, and the piece required some distracting working out of all the fussy details. It also had the atmosphere-that jolly enthusiasm- of the Drama Quartet and of most theatre produced for children. A pretty piece at times, but the group seemed to feel more at home behind the masks put on for the first half.

Unfortunately, the promise of a more group-orientated improvisational and professional approach to theatre, and Francis Batten's comments after the performance were not reflected in the quality of the mimes. Perhaps one expected too much; we still retain that unwholesome awe for the repatriated artist; our idea of mime largely shaped by the delicate, almost campy, and highly egoistical approach of Marcel Marceau. However, despite their lack of finesse, and the urgent need for more precision in their movements, the members of the group have reserve energy and vivacity, which makes the evening (and welcome discussion afterwards) delightful experience. It'a a far more creative style of theatre than the usual unhappy confrontation between script and actors, or the cozy, undemanding, Downstage styles.

Cathy Wylie

Photo of students performing in a theatre production