Celebrating its fourtieth year of breaking boundaries, the London International Mime Festival 2016 offers us a host of contemporary visual theatre in some of the best venues, showcasing new and experimental work. Many of the shows throughout the rest of the festival are now sold out, so if you’ve not had a chance to look at the website yet, visit it here.
The marketing of ANECKXANDER creates a clear idea of what you get as an audience member in this show, but what you’re not prepared for is the sheer physical feat of Alexander Vantournhout’s routine – the perseverance that sweats out of him and the charm of a Belgian in boxing gloves.
There is always a heightened awareness in shows like ANECKXANDER, where we’re offered a rare insight into the rigorous relationship between an artist and their work, and the role that an audience – willingly or not – plays within it. Our very presence in the space continues to push the artist through the show, regardless of whether we sense danger or a risk. In fact, typically this is where there is the biggest response and sense of reward from spectators and the performer alike.
There are lines of the absurd and grotesque running through the dramaturgy of this piece, which has been beautifully sculpted by Bauke Lievens. With such detailed and specific decisions dotted throughout, these artists present objects and visual clues for us to interrogate and interpret, necessitating that we find our own meaning in the 45 minutes, and even offer us longer if we’re still not sure. Accompanied only by a keyboard (with music by Arvo Pärt) and the sound as he gasps for breath, Vantournhout’s performance is outstanding. His various circus and performance training and autobiographical choreography is mesmerising, and as grotesque as it is beautiful because of this performer’s infectious personality.
My favourite moments were the cycles and evolutions of movement, observing the timid beginnings of each new walk, and the amazing thing he can do with his tongue. For me the show is reminiscent of Trygve Wakenshaw, Joesph Mercier and Becka McFadden, so if you’ve been jolted or provoked by these artists, ANECKXANDER will be a treat.
With visual illusions, physical trickery and outstanding circus skills, this performance made me feel more than I’ve felt in a long time.
ANECKXANDER played at Jacksons Lane as part of the London International Mime Festival. For more information, see the Jackons Lane website. Photo: Bart Grietens