Zimmerman and de Perrot come to London

Posted on January 21st, 2010 by

After cell phones are shut off and put away following the French announcement to do so, the movement on the stage begins. Two men, dressed in seemingly casual attire, make a rhythmic sound using the wooden blocks scattered on the slanted stage and the DJ table off to the right. The lights remain high as the audience settles into their seats for the fantastic performance.

Oper Opis (Something Someone), a show created by Zimmermann and de Perrot, comes from Zurich, Switzerland. This is their third show in their unique circus style. Zimmermann and de Perrot are the creative talent that designed this show and they also perform on stage with 5 other cast members, three women and two other men. This creates a final cast of six acrobats/dancers and one frantic DJ who is mixing live during the show. Zimmerman and de Perrot describe the show as being about “the difficulty of finding in others what one is really looking for: oneself.”

Oper Opis is only in town for four days at the Barbican Theatre in London and all the plush seats were full as the lights fell, as they will be for the rest of the performances here. The show has been running since October 29th, 2008 but its series of performances in London marks the beginning of the London International Mime Festival. The festival is taking place in four different performing spaces in London from the 13-31 of January 2010.

In this miming fashion, only conferring in gibberish briefly, the spectacle of the show unfolds. Although the miming strays greatly from traditional mime, with no traditional make up or costume, it is sill as engrossing as ever. As we meet the characters, their movement seems very similar to modern dance with its creative actions and incorporation of the whole body. One at a time we are graced with the presence of the different personality of each character, even one that seems to have no legs! They show us some scenes that seem to be from everyday life while incorporating dance, music, theater, and bold moveable props. It has a circus feel as people are moved around like dolls and flipped in an acrobatic style.

The set is a spectacle in itself. Although it’s sparsely decorated with a plain table, some chairs, a variety of basic blocks, and a wooden sheet upstage left , the trap doors and floor boards that can be flipped up and carried around give it something unique and original. The most wonderful part of the stage is that it moves. The whole thing is on a hydraulic system so the corners or the entire stage can be tilted. It is moving almost the entire time while the performers balance and interact.  Another element of the set was that there was space underneath this tilting floating platform. It was sparsely decorated as a house where Zimmerman’s character slept and finally ended up playing chess with de Perrot at the close of the performance.

The scenes were passionate and busy. Throughout the entire performance there was more than one person moving at a time and they weren’t always interacting, so it became difficult to see everything because it was all happening at once. The lighting helped out some, highlighting the focus, along with the aid of small or repetitive movements of the performers that were not the focus of attention at that point in the piece.

The movement in this piece was a mixture of many different styles including modern dance, physical theater, circus performance, miming, and gymnastics. Some of the movement was jerky and sharp. The flips and some of the lifts almost had a robotic feel to them. Other times the movement was fluid and loose. It felt like movement you see on a daily basis by ordinary people at points, but at other times there was a feeling of melting or sliding that gave way to the fluid part of the show.

Scene’s depictions from everyday life included a scene in a gym complete with multiple different types of exercise equipment (created by some performers and used by others), an aerobic class, and a karate class. This scene provided an excellent example of the purpose of the piece, real life and daily interactions. Throughout the aerobics scene the performers are trying to be someone they aren’t, dealing with body image, competing with some of the other characters whether it had to do with weight or strength of each individual.

In addition a section of the piece highlighted a couple in a very intense relationship. The woman was very strong in her performance pushing the man to balance her any way she threw herself at him, catching her after precarious flips in risky ways.  It was full of complicated lifts, impressive acrobatics, and powerful handstands. The demanding woman performed spectacular stunts pushing the limits of her partner’s capabilities and even causing him to “falter” at sometimes. The two cast members end up exhausted but together by the end of the show. This reminded me of arguments I’ve been in and I saw myself in the characters onstage, exactly what was intended through the spectacular performance.

Oper Opis captivated its audience from start to finish. The show brought out many emotions from the audience including fear when big stunts were being performed, relief when the stunts were completed safely, laughter, intrigue at the complex stunts, and awe at the beauty and effort given to this show. It pushed the audience to let go and enjoy the energy and spectacle of the piece as whole. Even though the performance was created in Switzerland it resonated just as clear in London because of the universality of body language. As a whole the show had a wonderful set, music, actors ,and  a genuine parallel   to real life. It related with the audience well, and captivated all.  I was left at the finale feeling that the show was indescribable, because of all of the fantastic displays of movement, energy, and lifts.

 

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