Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mummenschanz - Musicians of Silence: Theatre Review

Mummenschanz was founded over 40 years ago by its artistic directors Floriana Frassetto and Bernie Schürch. It's work is an incredible hybrid of dance, improvisation, mime and even influences of commedia dell'arte that has toured across the globe with its groundbreaking visual theatre. The company itself is probably one if the most unique, with a cast older than a large proportion of its audience. Not implying that it's shows appeal solely to our younger audience, quite the opposite in fact. The result of this theatrical chimera is truly universal.

This particular incarnation of Mummenschanz is 'The musicians of silence' and the only sound produced on stage is exactly that: silence (with the exception of occasional percussive sound of movement and props etc). It's structure is rather like that of a sketch show, with 30 small individual scenes that are completely unrelated to each other. There are four performers dressed entirely in black like performing cat burglars and the props and costumes range from a pair of oversized foam hands to flexible duct pipes from a tumble dryer and even rolls of toilet paper! The result is truly a smorgasbord.

The lighting design by Jan Maria Lukas, who also doubles up as the technical director, is incredibly simple and yet beautifully effective especially considering that he only has a black box for a set to work with. The staging is absolutely hilarious, anybody who can choreograph a fight scene between two over sized inflated bin bags is truly a genius in my eyes.

The cast perform with an incredible radiance and confidence that has certainly come from experience. A particular highlight came from Floriana Frassetto waltzing into the auditorium with a black box covering her head and encouraging the audience members to create her face and costume using strips of masking tape. Another wonderful moment being a competition between two unfired clay masks, with each trying to mould itself into the superior shape.

The real joy for me came not from the stage, but the audience. I'm not sure I have ever seen one so attentive. Children from the ages of four or five up to those with a buss pass were all beaming upon exiting the theatre. I believe the reason was that the the work beautifully communicated to everyone regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity or spoken language; it truly transcended all of them. 

Running at 80 minutes with no interval, it is a perfect choice for theatregoers who want their entertainment fix and while still enjoying the beautiful weather we seem to be having. With only a short run at the Peacock theatre until the 27th July, I encourage everyone to grab a ticket while they can for a truly alternative evening.

Review by Mark Gillon 

Rating: ★★★★★

Mummenschanz - Musicians of Silence is currently playing at the Peakcock theatre until 27th July 

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