The Table, Soho Theatre, London
Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House, London

A puppet who lives on a kitchen table holds attention and provokes emotion in an undefinable piece of theatre

Marketing the London International Mime Festival must be an annual headache.

What is it, for a start? It might be easier to say what it isn't, but even that involves qualification. It's certainly not a poor man's Cirque du Soleil, nor a three-week season of euro-zoners feeling their way round invisible boxes. Many of the 19 shows on offer this month involve masks or movement, but equally, some involve talking. If there is a trend, it's that physical theatre has become chattier.

This year's opener is typical in its unpredictability and its patter. The British company Blind Summit have made their name in puppetry, but the USP of The Table is that the performance area is limited to the surface of a kitchen table. At one point, we are taken on a tour of its features – front edge, back edge, two sides – with the brimming but half-abashed pride of a self-build home owner.

The occupant of the table (for the past 40 years, he would have us believe) is an unappealing brown creature whose potato-shaped body is too short for his frankfurter legs, his head crafted from folded cardboard. Technically, he belongs to the Japanese style of puppetry called bunraku, operated manually by three people who make no attempt to be invisible. In this instance the one who controls the left arm and head also does the voice, an unmusical thing akin to gargling through gravel which confers a hint of the sex pest when it's suggested to the audience that they "unleash their puppet love" and the character leers: "Would you like to practise on me, madam?"

Despite the repeated threat of a re-run of the past 12 hours in the life of the prophet Moses, the show transpires to be a hymn to procrastination. There is a powerful display of "focus", showing what happens when the operators momentarily turn their gaze away from the puppet ("watch me go all blurry"). And there are amusing demonstrations of silly walks, skating, disco bump and grind, and a mishap with an imaginary running machine – moderately amusing, anyway. The pranks wear thin.

More interesting is the existential pathos that accrues as the puppet works his pitch, unleashing venom on a random woman who dares to pull up a chair at his table, but clearly longing for the opposite result when he barks "Don't you come near me!". In time, the bullish self-aggrandisement of a cramped, lonely life comes to seem quietly tragic, with resonance far beyond the limits of a piece of furniture.

The table returns for the show's final segment, following an anomalous stint without any table at all. Dexterity and wit are reasserted in a joyously original skit in which a lurid adventure story involving a crash, a chase and an escape is rolled out by means of drawings on A4 sheets pulled from a briefcase, to the risibly incongruous strains of Elgar's Serenade for Strings. You see the Mime Festival's problem: you can't put a name to this kind of thing.

To the frustration of some, the Royal Ballet is not much in thrall to novelty. Kenneth MacMillan's production of Romeo and Juliet has barely been out of the repertory since its premiere in 1965, yet it remains the steadiest of box-office draws. The latest revival is the first since last year's arena blast at the O2, and it's all the more vital, whether from relief at not having to semaphor the steps, or from a dawning awareness that time is ticking for Carlos Acosta (40 next birthday) and Tamara Rojo (known to be planning her next move), who together set the bar for later casts. Both are at their stupendous peak as the teenage lovers – no suspension of disbelief required.

They keep it fresh, I suspect, by living dangerously. While the steps are set, the nuance and flare of their risky affair is left to the heat of the moment. Acosta's cheeky "see y'around" wave as he is escorted from the ball he gatecrashed triggers a ripple of subtly contrasted emotions across the stage. His animal fury as he lugs the unresponding Juliet about the crypt is almost frightening. In turn, the way Rojo hardens her small body in resolve after letting out a great silent howl against her fate is one of the most compelling sights on a London stage. The rest of the cast are inspired to raise their game to match. See this.

'The Table': Soho Theatre, London W1 (020-7478 0100) to Sat. Mime Festival continues to 29 Jan (mimefest.com). 'Romeo & Juliet': in rep at the ROH (020-7304 4000) until 31 Mar

Dance Choice

BalletBoyz Michael Nunn and William Trevitt danced together for 25 years before stepping aside in 2010. The eight fit young blades who make up The Talent may have spent less of their short lives in ballet class, but have already proved well up to the task of selling the BalletBoyz brand to the Twitter generation. Their spring tour takes in 23 venues – this week (Fri and Sat) it's the turn of Cambridge Arts Theatre – with a feast of exhilarating dance intercut with the company's distinctive use of film footage. At London's Linbury Studio, popular Mime Festival regulars Gandini Juggling Project premiere Smashed an unlikely homage to Pina Bausch involving 80 apples and an awful lot of crockery (Wed to Sat).

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence