VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEAT
VIEWS FROM THE GODS
PAIN THRESHOLD OF IMAGINATION
Black-clothed and white-faced character points at his comrade with his finger pistol and asks the audience to decide whether to shoot or not. Thumbs go up but some go down. At this point the character grabs one of us to the stage to take part in the execution.
The character, and the awaiting comrade, is portrayed by Marc Gassot, an actor and a mime extraordinaire. For nearly two years Dark Side of the Mime has taken mime to a place many hope the classic art would shun: to porn and gore.
The show directed by Akse Petterson reminds us that the worst thing on stage is that we cannot see. The point where acts on stage hand the baton over to imagination. Gassot draws the lines of dirty and bloody movements so accurately that it is easy to see a splash of red alongside the traditional black and white. Dark Side of the Mime follows the same path of horrible comedy as Franquin’s Last Laugh by André Franquin who is best known for his Marsupilami and Gaston Lagaffe. The skinning scene which ends in wearing another person’s skin brings to mind the bloody imagery of Clive Barker.
The most recognizable, and therefore the most horrific, is the car scene where the driver’s road rage is not limited to fellow drivers.
Dark Side of the Mime reveals our urge to play with the macabre. When the mime plays, we want to play with him. The members of the audience grabbed to the stage are eager and innovative. The only pain threshold that could use a little more attention is the use of time. The vigorous show could feast on some painful moments a little bit longer.
THE SKIN I MASTURBATE IN
The concept of porn mime is not something we are used to seeing in theatre repertoires. What does porn mime even mean? Dark Side of the Mime in Linnateatteri offers a funny and disturbing interpretation of this unusual subject.
The show with only one actor and sound and light effects is as porn as mime can be. In the first fifteen minutes of the show we dive into orifices with the explicitness of porn. Sexuality and body are among of the most difficult subjects for comedy, and even in this show there is some discomfort among our entourage.
Disturbing in a good way is the depiction of violence where the actor vocalizes and overacts just right. It feels as if we’re watching a Tarantino film as the actor pulls intestines out of an invisible body. Violence doesn’t have to be blood and intestines to be appalling and shocking – the effect is at least as powerful when violence is being built in our own imagination.
Dark Side of the Mime is at its strongest when commenting on the relationship between violence and porn. The violence in the show is like porn: straightforward, shameless, and totally indifferent to its acceptability. The most insightful interface between porn and violence is in the skin. Why is it that the skin that titillates us in porn becomes terrifying and stifling when the actor skins a body and sows the skin on himself?
The show blurs the lines between violence and porn with its sounds. The cries of pain caused by a a chainsaw cutting the flesh get mixed with the previous moans of pleasure.
Since the show is so bold the juiciest situations are naturally those when the actor picks assistants from the audience. The actor has to have a strong sense of discretion to recognize the boundaries of an unknown person ja improvise the ending of the scene if the going gets too rough for the assistant. The interaction between the actor and the audience gets more fluent as the show closes to an end.
Dark Side of the Mime might not be the best choice for a first date but in a more familiar company the penetrations and mutilations are most enjoyable entertainment
DARK SIDE OF THE MIME
This year I had a little itch that has remained unsctched. Usually the Fringe offers up at least one show that is gratuitously but gloriously appalling. To the rescue, comes Dark Side of the Mime. Marc Gassot is phenomenon in Finland. He is an actor, a mime and ”a very naughty boy”. Despite looking like traditional Marcel Marceau clone, Gassot takes about five minutes to turn the friendly, fragile world of mime inside out. The show is 45% self abuse. And I do not mean that in a metaphorical sense. Under the elegant arches of the Assembly Roxy Gassot he wrings (well, it is actually more of a pumping motion) laughter and imaginary body fluid from himself and various members of the audience. And the laughs keeps coming. And this is but forepaly. I will spare readers of a nervous disposition a list of enthusiastically mimed depravities. There is no story arc, simply a series of little mimed sex sketches. Involving quite lot of us. The young guy in the final sketch was quite brilliant, but I suspect he might wake up at night with screaming PTSD for weeks to come.
The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday 30.08.2015
DARK SIDE OF THE MIME
When Theatre Takomo named their newest production Dark Side of the Mime – the nod to Pink Floyd’s seminal album is an appropriate choice, for just as that great prog-rock back of the 70s brought a new, cohesive edge to their work, so has Marc Gassot found a solid form-foundation from which to display his excellent talents. His Finnish director, Akse Pettersson, told the Mumble, “Dark Side of the Mime explores the grotesque like nothing else. It mixes together classic pantomime with sex, splatter, and slapstick humour. At its core lies the fundaments of our common culture and its taboos. It taps into the dark side we all have in our minds. But if the first common denominator is darkness, the second one is laughter. We all know the jokes we tell each other in good, secure, and secluded company. The ones we wouldn’t be ready to share with just anyone. Well, our show tells those jokes. You can see it as a smart look into the mechanics of pop culture, or just take it as it is: a mime-porn-splatter-show.”
For myself, the spectacle they created is both mischievous and hilarious, with Gassot capturing our full attention from start to finish. The series of sketches he elucidates are perfectly synchronized with the stage lights and sound-effects: a perfect performance plucked by a musical maestro and his keyboard. A mixture between Laurel & Hardy’s slapstick comedy and the brutality of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the show is also complemented with a dark & sexual humour where no subject is taboo. To this Gassot adds a level of audience participation throughout which
accompanies the hilarity which blossoms effortlessly from Gassot’s improvisational skills. This show is not for the prudish or weak-stomached. If you want to see some real dark humour in an interesting format with the added authenticity of the classical mime routine, you cannot, or should not, miss this show. FIVE STARS
Mumble Cirque 20.08.2015
DARK SIDE OF THE MIME
“Marc Gassot inherits the mimetic mantle here, but it’s what he does
with it that some might say oversteps the mark. His deceptively
traditional-looking mime is no flower-sniffing, butterfly-chasing
cupcake, but instead a smiling, silent and calculatingly vicious nutjob
who invites us into an imaginary world of random gory violence and
explicit, hard-core sex. This is emphatically not a show for delicate
sensibilities. There’s nothing twee about Gassot’s impulsive antics,
save from a mocking point of view, as he roams through the audience
picking victims or, in some cases, collaborators.”
“Gassot is a very skilful performer – physically lithe and articulate, and magnetically attractive — but with a decidedly dangerous side. Apparently he’s picked up a few awards in his homeland for this and other work, and you can see why. Gassot knows what he’s doing on stage.”
The Times 19.8.2015
DARK SIDE OF THE MIME
For some reason, my first reaction to a mime is the old Rowan Atkinson sketch “My body is my tool”. Dark Side of the Mime shows that body is not the only tool available. I had heard rumours that the audience wasn’t safe in this show so I left the front row to others. I tiptoed all the way to the fifth row thinking I would be safe.
The show starts quite lightly and traditionally. A mime dressed in black walks briskly and picks a flower from the ground as Karl Sinkkonen plays cheerful music on the background. Soon the mood changes and we move past the point of no return and into the dark side. The mime seems to think “you reap what you sow” and starts beheading the audience. We take a peek into the place where the sun don’t shine, and see a man from the first row demonstrating his wrist action. The audience laughs hysterically, and the pace accelerates.
The nether region is examined carefully from front and back, and the woman next to me covers her face in disgust. I chuckle with amusement. What audacity! What grotesqueness! And in the end, everything takes place in our imagination. Shame on us! The pace accelerates even more. The front row is beheaded and set on fire. In your face. We might have even seen an autopsy or two.
I have never been this nervous in the theatre. A slight sense of danger is ever present and feels surprisingly thrilling because we know we’ll probably get out of here alive. All of a sudden, the lights get brighter and the music more ominous. I’m so nervous I manage to get my fingers chafed as the mime preys his audience and grabs the woman sitting right in front of me. My heart keeps pounding for a long time. The woman gets to take an unforgettable road trip, and I don’t feel jealous at all. (As a matter fact, I do a little…)
We stepped into the dark side and I must admit, it was worth it. I want more of this audacity and skill. My face won’t stop burning even when I’m writing this more than four hours after the show. It was fun to follow the reactions of other members of the audience. “Yuck” was heard on many occasions. Never mind us perverts.
Dark Side of the Mime gets full five stars.
Theatreblog teatterikarpanen.blogspot.fi 7.11.2014
NO TIME FOR TRAVEL (blog)
This is certainly an adult show and not for the faint hearted as the Finnish mime artist Marc Gassot quite happily crawls over audience seats to pick his next victim. As the name suggests this show is only for those with a dark and slightly twisted sense of humour. It is hilarious but revolting and the sense of danger is forever present as you really don’t know what will happen next or who will be picked next. If sexual innuendo, murder, being set on fire and run-ins with the police don’t phase you then this is the show for you. All this is accompanied by creepy keyboard playing! I literally didn’t stop laughing to the point my face hurt. Kudos goes to the audience member he pulled up for one of the main sketches as he too was brilliant. The stuff of nightmares albeit funny ones!
Theatreblog teatterikarpanen.blogspot.fi 7.11.2014
Taboos brought to life through gestures
Let’s be honest: at times I was so afraid that I grabbed the person next to me quite hard. Luckily I knew him, and there were no bruises. My apologies.
Dark side of the mime directed by Akse Pettersson premiered in Takomo at the end of April. The show is worthy of its name and age limit (for 18 and above). What we see on stage is the dark side of humanity, and it is extremely dark. We see violence, murder, and appalling sexual acts. On the other hand, the extreme is extremely funny.
It is not often that we forget the line between truth and theatre. As a mime Marc Gassot balances on that line with his arrogant, horrible, and yet strangely sympathetic character. Gassot’s character has the same white face and dark clothes as a traditional mime but that is where the similarities end.
With his movements and voice Gassot conjures up awful situations for the audience. The front row gets beheaded with a chainsaw and someone gets his face carved off with a knife. Not even the back row is safe. Gassot’s character not only charges towards the audience but also brings them to the stage. In the show I saw, a member of the audience protested in horror when the character coaxed a young woman to give head to an imaginary policeman. That, if anything, shows that Marc Gassot knows what he’s doing. For a moment we forget that everything happens with only gestures.
The music of Karl Sinkkonen and the lights of Teemu Nurmelin help to create the different worlds. The atmosphere changes from gentle to ghastly quickly but recognizably. The light and parodic scenes, such as the flower picking, give rhythm and calmness to the show that would otherwise overwhelm the audience. After the show the audience is surprised that only a little over an hour has passed. Time seemed to stop and last a lot longer, thanks to the intensity of the show.
We see allusions to popular culture from films to television series. Dark side of the mime seems to comment on the imagery of films and television by stripping everything but the act itself from the depiction of graphic sex and violence. The audience laughs, maybe in confusion, in recognition, and in horror. Breaking the taboos is hilarious.
During the show we can think about what kind of popular culture we want to consume, and what its imagery tells us about humanity. The show is not for those who are too afraid to think about a white-faced actor diving into an unmentioned orifice of an audience member. It was shocking but also extremely funny.
Teatteri&Tanssi (Theatre&Dance) 4/2014
The Dreadful Revenge of a Mime
It is easy to understand why Dark Side of the Mime is for adults only. Akse Pettersson’s new show dishes out violence and all manner of perversities possible.
Teatteri Takomo, the pet project of Kristian Smeds, has been one of the most interesting theatres in Helsinki for years. When Akse Pettersson was assigned as the artistic leader in 2012, Takomo established itself as the hotspot of the Finnish theatre scene, so the expectations for Pettersson’s next direction after mega success Kaspar Hausen in Q Theatre were naturally sky-high. In Dark Side of the Mime Pettersson collaborates with actor Marc Gassot who, in my opinion, was responsible for the most interesting play of the year so far, Raajarikko(The Crippled).
Raajarikko was an intimate, autofictive play about Gassot’s own life and his family’s history. In a deeper level the play focused on dreams, roles of man, identity, and family circumstances.
Dark Side of the Mime is a whole other story, at least in spirit. There are semantical similarities, even if Dark Side of the Mime is a lightweight in comparison.
Not for the faint-hearted
Gassot, a graduate from Jacques Lecoq’s renowned school for physical theatre and pantomime in Paris, has often used mime as an expressive tool and spice in his acting. This time the spice developes into a main course and an anachronic one-act play with only pantomime.
The show starts with an acclaim of sorts to the genre’s master, Marcel Marceau. Gassot flutters in a ballet pose, runs in a field, picks flowers, plays with a dog, and so on. That idyll, that melancholic and escapist play, is what we associate with a mime as a character.
However, the idyll deconstructs quickly and without warning when Gassot first starts to flirt with a couple of audience members and soon performs grotesque and elaborate sexual acts
to them. The contrast is huge, and the following shock effect hits the mark at least on some level.
The age limit of the show is 18, and understandably so. The show cannot be recommended for the faint-hearted as it deals with extreme violence and all manner of perversities possible. The explicit sex act is followed by a crime scene where a soldier’s disciplined charge into a building occupied by the enemy soon degenerates into an orgy of violence, blood, and intestines. The scene ends with the victorious soldier butchering the hurt enemy with a chainsaw after which he saws off the heads of the first row before soaking them in gasoline and setting them on fire. It is not the kind of pantomime we’re used to.
Dark side of a mime
If the motto for Akse Pettersson’s and Johannes Ekholm’s Kaspar Hauser was “Better to overdose than to underdose”, the same may work here. Pettersson and Gassot have decided that there are no limits or taboos, and that bad taste is a taste like any other. Members of the audience aren’t spared when they become part of a grotesque scene, either physically on stage or by Gassot involving them in the pantomime.
Gassot is phenomenal and in full control of his physical game. Audience doesn’t have to wonder what happens in the twisted worlds he creates with just a few simple gestures and expressions.
Even if the show is above all else a laugh fest of few parallels, there is still a darker undertone. The dark side of the mime seems to be blood thirsty and totally void of moral. The few words heard in the show are the entertainment industry’s classics, such as “motherfucker”. Karl Sinkkonen’s music and sound effects are full of paraphrases of computer games and Hollywood clichés. It is not that strange to imagine that the sensitive and susceptible mime couldn’t survive in today’s entertainment environment.
The show also deals with the confusing male image in a more extreme way than Raajarikko did. The traditional gentle mime that picks flowers and admires butterflies transforms into an oversexualized masculine monster who rapes, murders, and abuses his children. All this to the great delight of his audience. “Is this the entertainment you wish to see?” seems to be the underlying question. If so, the mime on Takomo’s stage is ready to deliver.
Hufvudstadsbladet (Hbl) 5.5.2014
KILL THE MIME!
Dark Side of the Mime
Takomo’s revolutionary show pushes the limits of mime
I might have written “Now I’ve seen it all!” a couple of times before. Now I have to humbly revise my view. In the eve of May 1st, I experienced a mind-blowing show that shook me to the core.
For years, I have enjoyed absurd, dark and twisted humour but now I got even more than I ordered. The show planned and directed by Akse Pettersson and performed by Marc Gassot dishes out mime about porn and violence.
As the creative director of Takomo, Petterson has turned everything topsy-turvy. The bold and avantgardist style challenges other operators of modern theatre. Earlier this spring Takomo celebrated its creative and innovative style in Raajarikko(The Crippled) directed by Pauliina Hulkko. This time the crew wants the creator of classic mime, Marcel Marceau, to turn in his grave, and certainly succeeds in this.
Towards the absurdia
Extremely skilled Gassot wraps the audience around his little finger from the very first seconds. In the lights designed by Teemu Nurmelin and the versatile music composed by Karl Sinkkonen, Gassot is first seen as a silhouette emerging from the setting sun. The image is completed by classic makeup, white gloves, and tilted barette. He greets the audience with a shy smile and picks mimical flowers to the audience’s delight until the mood changes.
Gassot plays and teases the audience shamelessly and starts the kind of whirlwind I’ve never seen before. He takes the audience effortlessly into absurdia, a place or space where there’s no moral and where everything is possible.
Interpretations come to life
In the porn section of the show Gassot does everything possible and impossible. He, for example, dives into a rectum of a gay macho. All this is achieved with only gestures, and there is still only one man on stage without any props. All interpretations take place in audiences’ minds. The audience screams in disgust and delight to their own imagination.
In the violence section we see the liberating power of fantasy. When Gassot shoots, mutilates, chainsaws, and burns invisible enemies, we unwillingly cheer along. Sinkkonen’s action packed music emphasizes the surrealistic violence. The experience is liberating until Gassot smiles and turns his invisble chainsaw towards his audience and beheads the first row. Pettersson’s direction shows wickedly and cunningly how fast violence turns against itself.
Power of creativity
Surreal images follow one another. At times Gassot looks innocent and sensitive until all hell breaks loose. The show is full of skilled and quick clownery, black humour, and allusions to a number of films. At least Rambo, King Kong, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, and Bad Liutenant get their share.
New face of a clown
Pettersson and Gassot take the contact to their audience and participation to a whole new level. Obscene sense of humour and the age limit are both called for.
In the final scene Gassot in a way crushes the icon and in a way brings new, dark sides to the gentle mimic clown. The audience gets a glimpse behind the mask.
Dark Side of the Mime is a brilliant, revolutionary, and almost historical show that combines splendid virtuosity, carnevalistic audacity, and mysterious wisdom.