Mime is often overlooked as an art form. In a fast-paced world where we are constantly putting out and receiving instant information, we seem to be on the hunt for the quickest means to communicate. It seems strange to many to sit back and watch a wordless play. However with their latest show Kite, theatre company The Wrong Crowd have set out to produce an hour of storytelling without speech – and it’s immersive, interesting and important.
Kite is part of London International Mime Festival 2016, and the excitement in Producer Bonnie Mitchell’s voice is audible as she tells me, “It’s a joy to be doing this through a run at Soho Theatre. They’ve supported us from the very beginning.” When asked if mime is sometimes overlooked as an art form, Mitchell agreed perhaps there are misconceptions amongst the general public about all that mime encompasses. “I think the mime festival have been massive advocates in letting people know how modern and exciting and urgent mime as an art form is and can be”, Mitchell says.
The wordless nature of the play also means that it’s incredibly accessible. Forget language barriers, and say hello to a new kind of visual storytelling. “This has given us a springboard to really reach out to a broader audience”, Mitchell explains – whether that’s the younger generations or those who are hard of hearing, and those for whom English isn’t a first language. Kite is aimed at all ages seven plus and is relevant to both children and adults, exploring issues such as bereavement and grief in a new and fresh way. It tells the story of a young girl who, after losing her mother, goes to live with her distant grandma in an airless flat. One night a handmade kite comes to life, and so begins “a wild adventure and the chance to find what it seemed was lost forever”.
The Wrong Crowd have worked differently in the creation of this show in that they began with the visuals, rather than with the story. Director and Designer Rachael Canning knew that with this play she wanted to explore something that’s rarely attempted on the stage – indoor kite-flying. “Kites are really magical, and they’re something that we’d always associate as being an outdoor experience”, Mitchell explains. A kite is also an object that connects strongly with a point in childhood for many of us – “everyone has these dusty, windy hill-top memories, and it’s capturing that feeling within a theatre space”, she tells me. From this starting point, a story swiftly developed. “The kite quite quickly told us that it was a sort of benevolent force… in a kind of Mary Poppins type way, so we quite quickly came upon the story of the kite coming to life to help the characters deal with a moment of grief.”
This silent physical language is not only important in terms of the storytelling, but also as an intriguing method of exploring issues that are often considered as being taboo – such as loss and loneliness. Movement director Eddie Kay and composer Isobel Waller-Bridge worked alongside the directors and performers to create moves and motifs that would signal and enhance moments of memory or adventure, to give pointers to the audience whilst working without a script. Mitchell explains: “We hope that combining all these different art forms has created something that’s quite nuanced… we’re interested in the sorts of conversations that the younger and the older generations may well have after the show about the images they’ve seen and the things that they’ve felt, and the different meanings and access-points for each person.”
Kite is playing Soho Theatre until 6 February and then touring until 9 April.
Image: Richard Davenport