Imagine Toi

Julien Cottereau and Erwan Daouphars
Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Julien Cottereau

The names above are not, as with most BTG reviews, the writers in the usual sense but they are the creators, for performer Julien Cottereau is a mime and a clown.

He doesn’t use verbals and write dialogue though, unlike the old-style traditional mime, he is not silent but uses a complex mixture of noises, most of them vocalised by his own mouth with an occasional addition of music: he wears a head mike and Morgan Marchand’s sound control is clearly important.

There is no setting, just black drapes, though he makes very effective use of Idalio Guerreiro’s lighting which can even represent character, such as a dog that starts as a playful puppy then gets larger and larger, more and more aggressive.

Cottereau is a solo act, a nondescript but slightly odd figure a waistcoat high over an incipient tummy, some oddly-cut trousers with one leg buttoned halfway up and an overlapping fold instead of a zip fly, but there’s a pixie like hat on his head and pointed elfin slippers that match his leprechaun like sense of mischief.

A solo performer? Well, that’s not quite true, for his supporting company is a large one and it changes at every show: it’s the audience. This is an act that is very interactive. It may be your turn to throw back that imaginary ball or even to find yourself up there on stage being coaxed into a two-handed mime instructed by a master but setting him the challenge of adapting always to what you actually do and simultaneously finding sounds to match your moves.

Cottereau clearly has lots of experience at picking partners from the public. He is a responsible professional; this is never about embarrassment, always achievement and it is very impressive the way that he handles it.

He is a magical mover and very, very funny. He is gentle and graceful and tender and touching; the children in the audience immediately want to play with him, the adults quite safe in his hands if he asks (miming of course) for their co-operation and, I have to repeat it, he’s very, very funny: a blissful 90 minutes.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton