The silent minority

Chet Baker is now a woman who sings, not a man who plays the trumpet

Richmond shepherd, the eccentric Los Angeles theatre impresario, spent his latter years touring the theatre festivals of Europe in search of performers with unusual bodies. At the Edinburgh Festival in 1987 I bumped into him at an open-air Welsh jugglingact and he pressed a leaflet into my pocket. The leaflet showed a white-faced man with hands extended in characteristic Marcel Marceau pose and carried the slogan "Richmond Shepherd, World's Foremost Mime". Somehow, it didn't tempt me.

"Mime" is both an unhelpful and an inaccurate banner under which to present the range of work in the London International Mime Festival, which opens tomorrow on the South Bank. In past years the directors Joe Seelig and Helen Lannaghan have been at painsto say that mime means more than white painted faces and Marcel Marceau. This time, they have the tricky task of explaining why Marceau's mime adaptation of Gogol's story The Overcoat is at the top of the bill.

One possible reason is that "mime" proper - the precise stylised physical discipline which flowered into popularity after Prevert's wartime film Les Enfants du Paradis - is experiencing a surprise revival. At 71, Marceau, who was trained by the film's choreographer Etienne Decroux, has finally been given state funding to run a permanent company, and Decroux himself, who died in obscurity in 1991, is now being celebrated by a company called Theatre de L'Ange Fou which recreates his choreography all over France.

Theatre de L'Ange Fou appears at this year's festival with The Man Who Preferred to Stand - a composite of a dozen classic Decroux routines dating back to 1931. There is also an appearance by Sweden's Marionetteatern, whose magical staging of Strindberg's Ghost Sonata opens the Festival tomorrow night at the Purcell Room. Michael Meschke, who founded Marionetteatern in 1958, was also a graduate of Decroux's Paris studio and the three shows together offer a mini-retrospective of the grand mime-master's work and influence.

The rest of the Festival, meanwhile, contains several genuine discoveries, notably Josette Bushell-Mingo's performance in People Show 100, a tribute to the jazz legend Chet Baker. What makes Bushell-Mingo unforgettable is her sensuous singing, which gives a heaped spoonful of soul to help the stylistically abstract play go down. Every aspect of the production is slightly skewed from reality. The brilliantly conceived hotel set is not quite the Amsterdam boarding-house from which Baker fell through a win dow to his death in 1988, and Bushell-Mingo, who plays Baker, is a woman who sings, not a man who plays the trumpet.

A different kind of theatrical soulfulness comes in the shape of Yoshi Oida, the Japanese actor who appeared last year in Peter Brook's The Man Who... Oida appears in a one-man show, Interrogations, in which he stands on stage and throws unanswerable questions at his audience. He then enacts replies through stylised movement and live music. Oida has performed versions of this continually evolving show in festivals around the world since 1979 and anyone who was impressed by The Man Who... would be mad to miss it.

British groups in the festival include the Mancunian Glee Club, whose previous successes include performing a fairy tale in which they persuade the audience to sympathise with a tomato. Here, they are offering a Wild West fantasy, Cotton Mather's Wondersof the Invisible World, seen briefly last year at the Royal Court Upstairs after winning the prestigious Barclays' New Stages Award.

The Glee Club form part of a short series of one-off performances at the ICA which also includes a rare chance to see Ernst Fischer perform beyond the confines of his Brixton living room. Since 1986, Fischer has been developing and performing his work athome, a venue he now calls the BRIXTON heART ROOM. Every time he produces a new show, he also produces a new design which he then has to live in for months on end until the next show and the next set. Heaven knows how the Festival organisers got to hearabout his work, and heaven knows what it will look like when he is transported, hermit-crab-like, into the cool atmosphere of the ICA. But A Brief History of ...(Silence)... sounds like an unmissable night of oddness on Monday.

Elsewhere, the programme is fleshed out by acts ranging from the Lindsay Kemp Company's vampish Cinderella to a circus cabaret featuring the exotic Skinning the Cat (painted girls on ropes, see front cover). My only beef is that the organisers persist inlumping all this together as "mime". Even Marceau himself would be better served if he were described as the Festival's exception rather than its rule. The directors should acknowledge that the distinctive programme is the product of their own eclectic tastes and rename it "The Seelig and Lannaghan Festival of Unusual Theatre". Then we could unreservedly celebrate what has undoubtedly become a cultural treasure.

Festival runs at venues all over London to 29 Jan (071-637 5661)

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower