Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, Barbican Pit, London
La Porta, Purcell Room, London

The goat is stuffed, and so is the planet. Just a regular day at the office

A casual remark from a stranger says a lot about the London International Mime Festival. "Are the performers famous or on TV?" asks a Japanese tourist in the seat in front.

"It was so hard to get a ticket, I thought they must be".

The truth is that none of the performers in the annual two-week season is ever a household name. The acts come from all over Europe and beyond, and tend to operate under the radar. Shows sell out because audiences have come to trust the capital's longest running international theatre season to deliver something fresh and dynamic, whether that be in the form of physical theatre, new circus, puppetry, whatever. It may still be mostly lo-tech, but the man in the glass box hung up his beret long ago.

True to form, which is to say unpredictably, both the shows picked at random for review in this column contain dialogue. Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, from American duo Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Ford, is an apocalyptic advance on television's The Office, with added taxidermy. Admin drones for a convenience food company, Gerry and Rhoda fritter away the working day in a state of guilty inertia spiked with irritation. While he devises elaborate routines for the rearrangement of Post-It notes, or hatches angry plots to trap passing flies, she indulges a compulsive snacking habit, crunching and slurping furtively behind filing cabinets, or abusing the microwave, if only to annoy her office-mate with its beeps.

So far, so familiar, though it must be said that long, watchful silences in a theatre are harder to tolerate than on TV, where at least you can get up and make a cup of tea. Granted, this tedium is carefully calibrated, so that when a furry animal scuttles across the office floor you almost jump out of your skin. There are further wildlife intrusions: a clucking pheasant in the photocopier paper box, a deer in a doorway, a rabbit on a shelf. It's only when, with mounting relish culminating in hysteria, Rhoda reads out a newspaper report about a pack of rescue chimps involved in a murderous revolt, that mayhem kicks in. Gerry dares to eat Rhoda's ready-meal, she attacks him, and a corporate video plays on the wall, showing dead pigs strung up in an abattoir and industrial quantities of pork mince extruding from a machine to strains of Debussy's Clair de lune.

I won't reveal the dénouement. Suffice to say that it involves collapsing walls, birdsong and a hungry brown bear in a liftshaft. We ignore the natural world at our peril – we know that. But Sobelle and Ford manage to interlace the eco-message with a satirical commentary on the futility of much that passes for work, and the disgustingness of much that passes for food. As comedy it errs on the slow side, but it's certainly daring.

La Porta, from Swiss clowning trio Compagnia 2+1, is jollier, anchored by a multilingual stooge who breaks into Rossini in a fine tenor voice. His best trick is to shred the Evening Standard to produce a copy of Le Figaro while singing a complicated aria from The Barber of Seville ("Figaro, Figaro ...").

The other two are endearing dopes with a throwaway line in acrobatics, juggling, escapology and playing the trumpet and tuba. The trouble is that the dramatic nub of the show, the performers' competitive efforts to lay claim to a door – yes, you read that correctly, a door – is so creakingly contrived. Had I brought a clutch of six-year-olds, I might have giggled along with them. The best clown shows have no upper age limit.

'Flesh and Blood', to Sat (0845 121 6839). 'La Porta' tonight only (0844 847 9928). The Festival continues to next Sunday (mimelondon.com).

Next Week:

Jenny Gilbert sees two shows that explore the choreography of laughter

Dance Choice

How often do you get the chance to try before you buy? Sadler's Wells Sampled (Fri & Sat) offers excerpts from upcoming shows, from the latest in hip-hop to soloists from the legendary American Ballet Theatre. Meanwhile, Birmingham Royal Ballet heads to the Theatre Royal, Plymouth with its handsome Cinderella, above, (Tue to Sat).

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests