views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Un Cas de Nostalgie
Lucy's Room (The Vaults)
27th November 2014


Pi the Mime

Photography provided by Mimetic Festival

Maybe it's me, but this year's line up at the Mimetic Festival seems dominated with facepaint. What makes Pi the Mime stand out from the vast sea of black and white painted visages is how old-school his act seems to be - there's even a spot of the dreaded glass box sketch. However, having a traditional background merely means Pi has the skill to deliver some expertly crafted movement. Un Cas de Nostalgie has some wonderfully fresh interpretations of characters, and is imbued with a real sense of childlike innocence and whimsy, whilst also reaching some darker places.

Pi shyly enters the spotlight and proffers his hat, disappointed when it remains empty. Immediately we see a vulnerability in the persona, and this endears him to us. There's a sense of nostalgia in many of the different acts he performs for us (unsurprising given the title) - making a doll out of netting, playing a ballerina who would be at home in a little girl's jewellery box, even playing dress up in heels and a slinky dress. In the somewhat less innocent moments, such as getting drunk and stripping, that sense of playfulness remains.

The show has been carefully crafted and it's clear that Pi has been working on this for quite time - he has every part perfected. Alexander Lutterley (Pi without the costume) has impressively directed and choreographed Un Cas de Nostalgie in its entirety, making this a one-man show in the truest sense. The lighting is striking, the movement delicate, controlled and frequently hilarious, the level of improvisation carefully judged. Pi deviates from the writing where appropriate,incorporating the rumbling of trains and sound bleed from other rooms into his act. He invites us onto his stage, he joins ours, climbing into the seating area and draping himself across us.

The entire 55 minutes is like a game for Pi and there's no reluctance on our part to play along - saying no would be like kicking a puppy. At one point, I found myself running in circles around Pi throwing petals in the air whilst he dressed up as a geisha. (I really do have some of the strangest nights out.) The use of stark lighting means from the stage itself you can barely make out the audience's faces beyond the first row, so Pi is tasked with sensing their energy and planning his next move on pure instinct, rather than simply reading their expressions.

This isn't one of those Mimetic shows where we all have a little sing song and hug each other, only some of the audience are (literally) drawn in, but it still feels like the entire crowd connects and shares a magical experience. Pi is incredibly accomplished both from a technical and emotional angle - he has an wonderful fluidity of movement but also the ability to really engage with people. Being brutally honest, I've never been a fan of mime, but Pi demonstrates it can be a thoroughly enchanting form of theatre when done right.

Lucy's Room is arguably the most difficult space to work with - it's noisy, there's no raked seating - but this doesn't stop Pi from delivering one of the best shows in this year's Mimetic Festival. Un Cas de Nostalgie is a real masterclass in writing, acting, directing and, well, pure professionalism. Pi is a versatile artist, adapting to whatever happens and able to charm a crowd. Quite literally the best-case scenario.

Un Cas de Nostalgie opened on 20th November and runs until 29th November 2014 at The Vaults, as part of Mimetic Festival.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)

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