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Bite 09

London International Mime Festival 2009

L’Ecume de l’Air

Les Apostrophés



The Barbican Pit

20 – 24 January, 2009






A review by Tim Jeeves for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Circus is alone amongst the arts in the room for error that is allowed, almost encouraged. Audiences embrace a performer’s failed attempts at a particular catch, throw, flip as emphasis of just how difficult the act is that they are witnessing, making it all the more special when the trick is finally achieved.

So it was with such expectations that I wandered into the Barbican’s wonderful Pit theatre on Tuesday night, and I wasn’t disappointed – Martin Schwietzke’s balls were all over the place. Unfortunately though, the juggling we witnessed never went into the realm of the truly spectacular; a 6-ball routine stopped before it really got going (and it took several attempts to get going), and that was the only time that that number of objects were thrown into the air.

Which isn’t to say that the show wasn’t without merits. There were definitely some nice moments, which occasionally verged on the beautiful.

Schwietzke might not often attempt the spectacular, but the way in which the balls would become incorporated into his movement was wonderful. His contact juggling is amazing, the balls rolling around his body as if on tracks, and the second movement of the show, in which the same basic circular motion of both object and body escalates from one ball to four by its end, is mesmerising.

The relationship between Schwietzke and Michel Bismut, the double bass-playing half of Les Apostrophés, is obviously a close one, and the juggling would often take on an eerie dancelike quality when underlaid with Bismut’s North African influenced jazz playing.

The percussive sounds which Bismut (and occasionally Schwietzke) generate from the bass, a stool, their own bodies; waver between inspired and tedious – never settling on either – whilst Bismut’s vocal accompaniment sits most uncomfortably of all the audio accompaniment.

The theatricality of the show was also satisfactory. The pair emerged from draped cloth at the start, an arrangement vaguely reminiscent of a cross between a big top and a nomad’s desert structure, which then largely served as a backdrop to the rest of the performance. The clowning personas that the two would sometimes adopt seemed to have a vague master/apprentice relationship, though nothing was made explicit.

A competent show, worthily performed, but how long it will last in the memory, I’m unsure. The performers, whilst adept, never presented us with anything to take home and treasure.

Ticket Info: £12
Box Office: 0845 120 7550





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