Theatre Meinwarts / International Mime Festival ICA, London

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The Independent Culture
Raimund Hoghe, Pina Bausch's dramaturge for more than a decade, sits neatly on a dark stage while behind him burns a carpet of candles. To begin the performance, a young man throws handfuls of earth on the candles to extinguish them; earth to earth, dust to dust. An old recording of a mellifluous tenor singing an aria from Lucia di Lammermoor begins, and Hoghe quietly walks to the middle of the stage, undresses, and stands with his back to the audience. Shadows play on the curves of his back, exaggerating the deformity which a severe curvature has left. From time to time, he jumps up to a trapeze suspended above him and hangs, utterly alone and naked on the huge stage.

Meinwarts is a requiem for the German tenor Joseph Schmidt, who fled from the Nazis for nine years before dying in a Swiss internment camp at the age of 38. By extension, it is also a memorial to all those who are dying before their time because of Aids, and it remembers all those who were "too short, too ugly", too Jewish and too gay for Nazism to tolerate. Hoghe remembers the victims of racism and the extreme Right in Germany today.

Hoghe's performance is profoundly personal, and demands a large amount of space and time. Schmidt's music provides the constant soothing background to a series of rituals that he performs with candles and small, personal objects. For much of the time, we are just sitting in darkness watching Hoghe dance with a torch in each hand. It seems ridiculous and embarrassing, but Hoghe's quiet severity always draws us back in.

When Hoghe comes to the front of the stage in formal dress and reads from a script on a music-stand, the identity of the young man he is describing is ambiguous. Is it Schmidt or Hoghe? But it must have been Hoghe's mother who was shocked when she caught him kissing a picture of Rock Hudson. By the time Hoghe begins reading out love letters from exotic, warm and recuperative places (Goa, India; Luxor, Egypt; Agadir, Morocco), there is no doubt that they are from Hoghe's lost lover. The collision of factual biography and grief-stricken autobiography is deeply affecting. It is a personal act of mourning into which we are all drawn.

n Ends tomorrow, ICA, The Mall, London, SW1. Booking: 0171-930 3647

CLARE BAYLEY

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