I was at the preview of Italian Mime Suicide from Bad New Days, co-directed by Kari Pederson and Adam Paolozza. It’s short but intense, part lecture, part performance, sometimes serious sometimes funny.
No question about it, I’m out of practice, not accustomed to live theatre.
There were at least two scary moments that jarred me to the core, and had me wondering how they could pull it off safely. Remember that moment in My Favorite Year when the lighting fixture falls and almost hits the actor? There’s something like that: except this is live theatre, not a movie.
There are moments of genuine magic.
I’m intrigued by magic for several reasons. I watched a documentary about film-maker and magician Georges Meliès yesterday. In conversation with my brother on the weekend I quoted the composer of Postcard from Morocco Domenick Argento, who called live singing a magic trick; need I add that it isn’t magic when it’s not live.
I wondered even though I was in the front row, how did Adam disappear like that? How did they make that music?
I was especially fascinated by the musical performance we encountered as part of the show.
Arif Mirabdolbaghi is listed as the composer, a name you may recall from The Double.
We watched SlowPitchSound aka Cheldon Paterson, first in a brief introduction to the theatre piece, exploring the melancholy sounds of the pre-show tracks as if from first principles.
I realized I’d seen him before, at the Electric Messiah in 2015. Then as now I was aware of his work as part of a collective, wishing I could zero in on his contribution, one of the best things about the evening.
As the show began Cheldon looked up, interrupting his music to say “how y’all doin’?” As I was the closest person to him in the front row, I put a bit of a damper on things, smiling at him –under my mask—while making the hand-gesture to say “comme ci -comme ça” or perhaps “mezza mezza”. What can I say? I was sitting there captivated by the melancholy of the music, not ready for the usual laughter I wish I could offer, possibly because we’re still getting over Sam’s passing (her ashes came home yesterday in a beautiful box).
Cheldon looked at our collective Toronto response, and challenged us, saying something along the lines of “I can’t hear you”, a taunt that drew lots of whoops and screams from the crowd behind me.
I was in the front row hoping to be cheered up but just as ready for melancholia. There we were in the CAMH neighbourhood (has the building been renovated? It looks bigger & newer), while the rest of Queen W seemed kind of subdued: like the rest of us.
Forgive me for suggesting that we Toronto audiences are out of practice.
Maybe it’s just me.
As we went on, there were lots of laughs, hilarity from everyone behind me. And I did laugh a few times.
I even did some schtick with Adam near the beginning when he did a kind of monkey see monkey do thing, tilting my head slightly and having him mimic / mock me… It got a bit of a laugh, and was fun.
Mimesis is the core of this show, as he reminded us a few times. While being a mime might be career suicide –a line of his that made ME guffaw even if no one else in this mime-friendly crowd offered a laugh– mimesis is fundamental to the arts.
Adam believes it and so do I.
How fundamental? As we were leaving, there was another magical moment. A lovely happy gaggle of young audience members (okay okay, everyone in the audience was younger than me…) were giggling, expressing their delight….
I followed thinking it might be members of the cast coming out of the dressing room.
Nope. It was a raccoon glimpsed through a window. Everyone was thrilled to see a raccoon.
I was just following, walking along behind the crowd, intrigued, imitating their energy in observing.
Imitating? You might call it “mimesis”, and you’d be right.
The cast — Ericka Leobrera, Rob Feetham, Nicholas Eddie and Adam Paolozza—are sometimes athletic, sometimes vocal, sometimes sculptural, always beautiful to behold.
While it’s not for me to say, I feel that there’s much more to be mined in this collection of talented people. We’re peering through the eyes of colleagues, sympathetic to the depressed mime among them. What would that be like, I wonder.
They remind me of something we’ve seen in old movies. Was it Wenders’ Wings of Desire or a Fellini film? It’s wonderfully vague yet still close to home, even universal. There’s a circus-like vibe, a familiar world-weary energy that we know.
It’s real and not a copy of anything, very authentic and worth exploring further. How does each one feel about this mime and about mime generally: which we do touch upon..? My melancholy sometimes matches the cast, sometimes only Adam’s sad figure.
For me the musical contribution from Arif and Cheldon is a huge part of the show, brilliant responses in sound as though scoring a (mostly) silent film. Need I add, these creations add a layer of majesty to the magic. The piece is not long but it’s very intense, the music sometimes haunting, sometimes understated.
Italian Mime Suicide opens this weekend, running from April 23 to May 1. Shows are Tuesday – Sat 8pm, Sat-Sun at 3 pm at The Theatre Centre (Franco Boni Theatre) 1115 Queen St W. Tickets are all ”Pay What You Can Afford” www.theatrecentre.org.