Compagnie 111:Aurélien Bory, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Thursday 27 January 2011
Aurélien Bory's Sans Objet is a work for two acrobats and a 1970s industrial robot. The human performers, Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer, are taut and disciplined, but that robot is the star of the show. It has amazing range and delicacy of movement: flowing and twisting, picking up and setting things down, pulling the floor from under its human partners' feet.
Bory's Compagnie 111 comes to the South Bank as part of the London International Mime Festival. This celebration of visual, (mostly) wordless theatre covers everything from acrobats and puppets to lectures on laughter. Bory is a regular visitor, staging large-scale works in some of the festival's biggest venues. In one of his recent shows, an acrobatic cast played a giant version of the Chinese geometric game Tangram, where the pieces were bigger than the people playing with them.
The robot, operated by Tristan Baudoin, is an articulated metal arm that was originally used to make cars. The show starts with the machine under wraps, draped in black plastic sheeting. As it turns and undulates, the plastic ripples over surprisingly fluid movements.
It's a strong image, though Bory does linger on it. Sans Objet is a clever work that explores its ideas at slightly too much length. Some of the pacing may be technical – how quickly can the robot adjust to a new task? It's also a matter of tone, an urge to philosophise.
The human performers are men in suits, hiding their suppleness under jackets and ties. Hanging on to the machine, they're strong enough to stretch their bodies out in firm horizontal poses. Their demeanour suggests matter-of-fact office workers; perhaps they've become mechanised, too.
London International Mime Festival continues until 30 January (www.mimefest.co.uk)
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