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

Jackson’s Lane

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.

#betweenbeingandimagining #LIMF #LondonInternationalMimeFestival #AlexanderVantournhout #BaukeLievens #ANAutobiographyofthebody

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