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Spent the morning at The National Theatre in a workshop with Bjoern from Familie Floez playing with Full Face Masks. The deep lesson I took from this was the emphasis on the core. The part of the body which links upper body with lower body. I like the masks very much, all asymmetric, fine characterisation. I learn from them, I want to fre-ocus my own work on character. I am now confident on the sculpture so I can turn my attention onto the image and its meaning.

In the evening I went to see the show, I enjoyed the audience as much as the performance. Occasional moments which were a bit too sentimental for my taste, but the audience reactions carried me over those bits. A few questions about why they chose certain bits  (the ball) but overall I concur with this review from the British Theatre Guide

Infinita                 London International Mime Festival 2016

Familie Flöz            Peacock Theatre            From 28 January 2016 to 30 January 2016

Review by Vera Liber                   Infinita – Familie Flöz    Credit: Simona Fossi

 You must not miss the Berlin-based Familie Flöz if you can help it—I nearly did. But I can’t tell you to rush to the Peacock theatre in London, as I saw the last show tonight—of only three. Why only three? But remember the name. The theatre is buzzing, the family audience excited, involved, captivated. Talk about participation: they shout, clap, chuckle, guffaw, cheer, play ball (great rapport—a Slava Snowshow style descent into the stalls), and applaud a long happy curtain call.

Laughter and lumps in the throat, poignant, sentimental, touchingly real, Infinita addresses a matter of life and death without sugar coating—well maybe a little bit, the divine music helps—head on, shirking none of the messy bits (is that an enema and a full adult nappy?). All this behind masks and with body language so delicately exact, they could be speaking.

One of my offspring once observed at a very young age with the wisdom of children that adults are only old children. And this is what the Familie Flöz troupe of four, playing many roles, observes in its juxtapositioning of naughty playpen age children with the equally naughty senile in a nursing home. Easy targets, but done with gentle humour, tenderness and care.

The journey from birth to death, from big bang to back to the stars, starts as the audience is shuffling in and settling in: in silhouette video animation (reminds me of Lotte Reiniger) and shadow play on the backcloth a man is digging in his garden—no, wait, it’s a graveyard. A dog comes and nuzzles him, and then comes the coffin and funeral procession. Is anyone paying attention? Do we ever?

A park bench—all of life seems to happen on that park bench—a cellist in white frock plays, a man in a wheelchair brings a single red rose for the grave. In a mosaic of life on the stage and black and white negative-photo memories on the backcloth a life’s story unfolds. We piece it together as it goes—backwards and forwards—what is more satisfying than that?

A baby getting up on its feet, limbs floppy, hips loose, stance wobbly, slapstick observational. A bigger girl comes and snatches his rag doll—this ragdoll is a constant—two slightly bigger farting toddlers try to get into his playpen, she sorts them out. Plays doctors and nurses—well, we know where that leads. They like it. Clowns in babygros… Watch the toddler try to climb a chair too big for him with dedicated ingenuity and guile.

The tension and build-up is great, the movements enthralling—the selfishness of children re-enacted in the nursing home, to which an embarrassed elegant old woman delivers the quiet old man in the wheelchair. Oblivious to the other inmates, as long as he can play the piano, he is easy to handle. The music, played live, is a wonderful choice of classical and klezmer (there’s something of the Tiger Lillies in that jaunty accordion), jazz and easy listening.

The other residents are a handful: there’s the junkie, who steals pills from the nurse and is rejuvenated by them, doing wheelies on his walking frame; there’s the Romeo with his radio (great fun is had with the aerial) and the hots for the nurse (we all need love); and the unsteady man carrying his potty across the room. The audience anticipates the worst.

But there’s friendship and electric conductivity between these thrust-together inmates. As between Familie Flöz and its audience: they have us eating out of their hands. Classical mime and clowning, unselfconscious, behind eloquent masks (by Hajo Schüler, one of the performers) brings out the joys and pains of life. What a multitalented quartet, tugging at our volatile emotions. Life is bittersweet. If only one could die as peacefully as the man in the wheelchair—beckoned up to heaven by the lady in white.

In heaven—I said it was a matter of life and death—the four old men in dapper white suits do a cabaret act, walking sticks beating out a syncopated rhythm on the floor, moonwalking, jigging and back-flipping. The audience shouts for more.

Bows are taken in character, but when the heads come off something remarkable happens. These shrunken concave-chested old men grow in size. Isn’t it always actors who are smaller in the flesh, well, Björn Leese, Benjamin Reber, Michael Vogel and the above-mentioned Schüler are bigger.

A fabulous generous ninety minutes boldly goes where many are afraid to go: irreverence and respect hand in glove they hold the mirror up to absurd incontinent life. And we can’t stop laughing at ourselves. For this light relief I can only give much thanks. Pure magic.

 

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Day One: What a wonderful day, great group of performers, lovely space and sunshine all day. Inspiring or what? Playful, proper learning, embodied, relevant and alive.

Ten performers bringing a wealth of experience into the room along with open hearts and joyful enthusiasm. They  are led gently though an alchemical process of an oral/ bodily tradition allied with imagination, improvisation and inspiration.

What a delight and joy to be part of this.

Clay designs made, starting the papering process. We has a visit from Sarena to tell us more about the Carnival Parade we shall be joining on Light Night.     Over the evening   about 12 folks put in their time and effort.            We shall have a gang going to the ball.

A great atmosphere this evening, good humour, perseverance and hard labour in short bursts. Some great ideas and some extremely fast realisations.      From clay into paper.