Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh that Marcel Marceau were here...

Friday Night, at the Maitisong in Gaborone, sponsored by the Alliance Francaise, an evening of mime with Laurent Decole, who describes Marcel Marceau as his spiritual father. I saw Marceau a few times about 4 years ago....

It was not looking good. The start was postponed from 7 to 7.30 pm - an old theatre hand like me knows that that means a short programme (I always remember the concert by Aurele Nicolet in Iserlohn, also about 40 years ago, where the first half was expected to last 32 minutes and the second 28 minutes ...perhaps net of applause, but short nevertheless.)

So we started (on time? did not check) with speeches; an announcer, followed by the head of drama at Maitisong. He seems quite a bossy sort - if he were my drama teacher, he would cause me anal retention with my creativity. First he ordered some children off the balcony where they were without their parents. Then he told everyone to be very quiet, particularly his pupils. Finally he went into long exhortations about mobile phones, and threatened that if he saw a lit-up screen he would come down and escort the offender off the premises. I did not get the impression he was joking! How can his students be relaxed and allow themselves to be really creative in such an environment?

Then there was a speech by the head of the Alliance Francaise, giving a bit of background on mime, and Marceau, and Decol who, after seeing Marceau perform when Decol was 18, decided to become a mime (I am glad I did not make that decision when I saw Marceau at about half that age).

Then there was an introductory act - a local hip hop band who had won some prize. It was a strange dance - the first half was hip hop, the second was pure acrobatics - and awesome they were. In the dance they could have been a bit more coordinated - they were not exactly synchronised swimmers, but the acrobatics more than made up for this.

Finally, at it must have been about 8 pm (we had been told the event would last 1.5 hours, but confusingly there was also mention of an interval), Decol arrived on stage, in the usual white mime's face. There were a variety of sketches, some, I am sure, filched from Marceau (but who holds the copyright on mime?). The sculptor who chops away at a rock to make a figure of a woman and ends up with a piece of dust; the people in the park, the guy who keeps getting trapped in walls encroaching on him (sounds like a nightmare come true), the sportsman trying out various kinds of sport and failing, and various others. Some were quite funny, others perhaps a bit heavy for the audience. It can be quite difficult to translate French life for Africa, even though probably most of the audience would have been well-travelled - would be interesting to do it in a village in the bush, to see if people would understand it. He could have done more entertaining stuff, eg showing a busy restaurant kitchen, a school class and so on.

He was quite a good mime, as especially became obvious when he got a boy on the stage from the audience (maybe one of the mime class at Maitisong, under that drama teacher?) and the difference showed. But it was also a bit boring, and he lacked the charm of Marceau, the little swagger he had and so on. Obviously he could not have had the hat with the flower on it (Bip) - that might have gone a bit too far.

Then at 9 he finished his act, and had to nurse the applause a little - perhaps most people were a bit underwhelmed. The guy who was sitting beside me and I felt a little bit embarrassed about it all. While the whole evening had lasted an hour and a half, there had been no interval. Maybe there was a second half? I don't know; a lot of people were leaving when I left. I had seen enough of him, and missed Marcel Marceau.