London international mime festival: 5 Short Films review – now everyone can watch

Clare Brennan
·2 min read

My heart went out to Jonathan Agnew, having to commentate on England’s first Test by watching the television in his attic instead of being in Sri Lanka’s Galle stadium, because of a Covid travel ban. “You don’t feel in the game,” Aggers told a BBC news reporter, after opening Test Match Special from his home. I know how he feels, but there are compensations to on-screen experiences.

This week, from my attic, I’ve been watching short films commissioned by the London international mime festival’s ever resourceful directors, Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig, reacting to current restrictions by moving events online. For the first time since its 1977 debut, people worldwide can experience the crazy diversity of work for which the festival is justly famous.

In Toby Sedgwick… Is Bernard Knowes, War Horse choreographer Sedgwick is a cap-wearing, prosthetic-nosed, clown-like character. His zany antics are playfully spliced with home videos from Sedgwick’s childhood and shots of him transforming into a mother figure, donning pinny and wig. These palimpsest-like images set off psychological/emotional resonances; comic sketches become poignant.

Bleak House, by puppeteer and theatre-maker Gavin Glover, has a darker, more austere humour. His camera, travelling through the rooms and corridors of a miniature derelict house, dislocates spatial scales and unsettles our perceptions – intriguing, disquieting and witty.

The performer-dancer Andrew Dawson intends Proximity as a “visual poem”. Dawson stands on a chair in a park, moving arms, head and torso: split screens mix-and-match shots of him, of trees, houses, sky and grass to meditative effect. Vertigo also focuses on a solo performer but was shot in one take with live holographic projections. Its makers, Kristin and Davy McGuire, describe it as “a duet between digital technology and the physical body” – and so it is; technically admirable but cold.

BSL interpreter Jacqui Beckford’s Nothing Compares 2U was actually made during a live performance of Charleroi Danses’s production Kiss & Cry at LIMF 17. The black-and-white film focuses on Beckford as she signs the eponymous song with a depth of expression and feeling that wrenches the soul. The tension of the rapport between her and the performance is palpable, making me long for the return of live theatre; online, after all, offers only partial compensation.

LIMF’s 5 Short Films are free to watch online, along with free live talks and charged-for workshops and, until the end of January, free-to-view recordings of some of the 729 productions presented over the festival’s 44 years.