Paper World

Mimirichi
Riverside Studios
(2005)

Production photo

The first time I saw Mimirichi, last year at the Edinburgh Fringe, I knew I would have to put them at the core of my fiendish and cunning plan for world domination. Mimirichi would leave everyone weak with laughter and begging me for more of the fun, and, of course, I would be a benign autocrat, sending Mimirichi out on a world-wide mission to sponsor their own brand of warm fuzziness and community spirit. In this cold, competitive world Mimirichi liberates hearts and minds and promotes participation and collaboration. The awful thing is that they are only at the Riverside Studios for TWO nights (until 1st July)! Please, please, rush down to Hammersmith and secure tickets for yourself, all your family (especially menopausal aunts and grumpy old men), your evil-minded neighbours, your traffic wardens and rouge traders, your bank manager and your boss.

The four-man creative team at the heart of the mad, mad world of Mimirichi are superb physical performers who start off with some simple slapstick and build to a breathtaking break-dancing finale. But their secret lies in their generosity and the way they engage us with their world. This is a place where the imagination can transform paper into anything we want it to be and half of the fun is the delight in collaborating with them to make these transformations happen. It is a clown theatre for young and old alike, because it's full of the familiar and everyday. Mimirichi's Paper World is peopled with recognisable characters. There's the little guy with the broom overwhelmed by litter bugs on the rampage. And perhaps it's the same voracious paper-munching clown evolving into a despot who gets himself crowned with pomp and circumstance, and, to push the point home, also devours handbags and jackets from among the audience.

I guarantee that by the end of the 85-minute show you will be shouting, screaming, pelting each other with paper, passing great swathes of the stuff back and forth and even eager to step onto the stage and be transformed into a goal-keeper for a paper football penalty or a beauty queen.

At the core of this age-old humour there is an odd but recognisable logic at work, an absurd logic, or even illogical logic, perhaps, but once we accept the rules it all makes perfect sense (something like when Charlie Chaplin's starving tramp cooks his boots and eats them with perfect table manners and social etiquette). Mimirichi's gags are reminiscent of these extended comic scenarios from the Commedia lazzi and the silent movies. For example, a man desperate to find a public urinal is given increasingly complicated directions by a street cleaner in which each round of mimed instructions seems to take the longed for relief further away on a journey that includes swimming and punting across a river.

Mimirichi put us in touch with a part of ourselves we don't pay much attention to these days. They belong to a long tradition of European clowning that includes the great zannis of Commedia dell'Arte, Chaplin and Keaton, Max Wall, Mayall and Edmondson and so on. This is an eternal and universal form of clowning, the carnivalesque, the Lords of Misrule, rather than the sanitised comic turns fed to children in 20th century circuses. In days gone by, this type of carnival event was considered dangerous by princes and municipalities, so that the travelling performers where often borderline outlaws. Happily, Mimirichi are completely legit, but they still can show us a few things that authoritarian rulers feared: that what usually passes for logic is suspect, and that a creative and imaginative response can present alternative solutions to traditions we take for granted. Perhaps, we should send them to the G8 Summit.

If you cannot make it down to the Riverside Studios tonight go instead to a tattooist and have MIMIRICHI inscribed on your forehead, so that you will recognise their name should they come to a venue close to you at a future date.

Allison Vale reviewed this production on tour at the Thetare Royal, Bath, in 2008

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher