Between Being and Imagining
An Analysis of London International Mime Festival's 'An Autobiography of the Body' and the First Open Letter to the Circus.
A Total Theatre Review is still to be published!
‘Aneckxander’- London International Mime Festival
Alexander Vantournhout and Bauke Lievens
22nd Jan 2016
Alexander Vantournhout’s calming and charming performance of ‘A Tragic
Autobiography of the Body’, showcases himself, stripped of all clothing as he progresses
through a series of mini acts adorning himself with objects, skills and human expression.
The narrative of the piece and of the body parallel research demonstrated by Bauke
Lievens’ “First Open Letter to the Circus”. The collaboration between performer
Alexander Vantournhout and dramaturge Bauke Lievens consists of an action research
project, (supported by KARSK School of Arts, Ghent). This performance as part of London
International Mime Festival, a series of letters being published by Sideshow Circus
Magazine and a future book are seeking to redefine contemporary circus by exploring
the role of the circus performer in relation to form, narrative and objects.
Vantournhout’s opening with the shedding of clothes immediately sheds the body’s
function as pure form. His slow and subtle body isolations are clear and unusual,
abstracting the body but never fully shedding the sense of humanness and humour that
are protected by his nudity and sly smiles. Much of the movement vocabulary is on all
fours, developing a new way to move, balance and travel expanding into undulating,
turning and cart-wheeling with no clear up or down, beginning or end. The phrase is
repeated several times to a simple melody recorded on a keyboard with the addition of
a pair of platform shoes, boxing gloves and finally the ruffled collar.
Vantournhout’s relationship with the objects alternates between being aided or
inhibited by them as they are incorporated into a developed version of the previous
vocabulary. As additional objects disrupt the routine, the notion of the tragic circus
performer constantly chasing a changing boundary conforms to Bauke’s redefinition of
the ‘virtuoso body’. As heavy landings produce loud thuds, the elegance of suspension is
juxtaposed with the fall as Vantournout’s energy is altered. Exerting himself into
momentum only to abandon the commitment to the pose breaks the perfection and
mastery of the body, quite literally falling out of his choreography.
As the movement becomes more acrobatic, large falls and somersaults are cushioned at
last minute by the boxing gloves. The choreography is now only made possible by the
props that often hinder it. The irony displayed through the humour of the work creates
an evolving rather than failing body, whose dynamic relationship between skill and
object empowers the performer through the celebration of the fail rather than in
traditional mastery of a prop.
The silly nature of the piece sees the audience gasp and giggle at risky landings and
stretching tongues and foreskins. The tragic act’s ‘non-ending’ ending leaves this clown
twirling and playing with his fake tongue. With no formal ending, the audience are
instructed to stay as long as they wish and the piece descends into the antidote of a final
show stopping spectacle, an anti-climax true to the tragic circus performer but funny
and charming throughout.