Has Marceau anything else not to say?

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The Independent Online
THE legendary figure of mime artist Marcel Marceau returns to London this week, but critics are wondering if, after more than 50 years of performing, he still has anything not to say.

The 74-year-old master will be performing his famous Bip show at the Old Vic in a three-week run which also features The Bowler Hat, a new tribute to Charlie Chaplin.

Earlier this year the show enjoyed a sell-out seven weeks at the Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris, where Marceau remains popular. But here, ticket sales have been slow, and leading figures in contemporary physical theatre are questioning how interesting "pure" mime still is.

Gavin Robertson, creator of West End hit Thunderbirds FAB, said that seeing Marceau for the first time changed his life, but he would not be going to see him next week. "You would have to pay me to go," he said.

He went on: "I first saw Marcel Marceau in 1981, when I had never seen mime before, and it blew me away. Now it would be like going to see an interesting museum exhibit. White-face mime is dead and buried. Marceau's in his seventies, his technique is not as good as it was, and he's a bit shaky.

"It says it all that his new piece is about Charlie Chaplin - it's all backward-looking. It's as interesting to me now as to see a magic-lantern show rather than a movie."

Marceau first came to England in 1952 and has been an irregular visitor since as he has made his way around the world, both popularising and becoming synonymous with mime. But in recent years the enthusiasm for his shows seems to have diminished. When he appeared at the London Mime Festival in 1995, alongside more progressive physical artists, he refused when they asked him to perform something new. At the time, he told the IoS: "Everything new does not mean better."

Physical-theatre producer Dan Colman, whose work includes Snowshow and The Gift, which is coming to the Barbican, said he would be going to see the art's most iconic figure. He said he thought it was still worth seeing Marceau but added that, in a way, it was the Frenchman's kind of mime that his own work sought to deconstruct.

Mr Colman said: "British audiences have an aversion to clowning and mime. We are trying to break those barriers down.

"Mime is like any other art form - the trick is to interpret it for a contemporary audience.

"You've got a very traditional form, which really is Marcel Marceau, and you try to play around with it."

Mr Robertson is still warm in his praise for Marceau. He said: "He does what he does, it's just that audiences don't want to see it, but that does not take away from the fact that he did something truly incredible. Really, he's a god."

The god will be performing at the Old Vic with 12 other mime artists from his Nouvelle Campagnie de Mimodrame Marcel Marceau from Tuesday.