hen you think of a mime, does something like this come to mind?
Sure, but what happens if you splash them in make-up remover? Are they still mimes? Oooo deep man.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to wax philosophical about the definition of the artist or Theseus’ old rowboat, we’re about to debunk some common misconceptions about what a modern day mime artist definitely isn’t!
Why bother? Well, mime has it’s tendrils in so many actors’ practices (see Famous People Who Use Mime), creates self-sufficiency in performing (why bother casting a love interest when you can just use a coat a la The Artist) and can future proof a performers’ career (um… ever heard of CGI?). A whole world of possibilities opens up if you start thinking outside the invisible box…
But What Is A Mime Artist?
Okay, fine, before we start, we probably should give you our angle on what a mime actually is…. Firstly, whether you say Mime or Mime Artist is down to personal choice and is generally considered to be interchangeable.
(If I just said something thoroughly outrageous, please let us know in the comments below and we can have a good ol’ chat about it)
At the Les Bubb School of Mime, we prefer the term Mime, just coz. Although while Les is most commonly referred to as a mime, the craft cuddles up on the Venn diagram with The Clown and Le Buffon. As Les is strongly influenced by Gaulier’s Le Jeu (play) mind-set, he’ll happily break with the cliches and conventions to do the thing that’s most interesting at the moment.
And actually, that’s why Les totally rejects any kind of definition:
“[Mimes] should all be different individuals. I see definitions as a kind of cage within which you are expected to occupy. Even while live-performing I usually never remain ON the stage if I can get away with it safely… Personally, I wouldn’t define ‘mime’ other than to say it’s an excellent creative ’tool’ and the most truthful you can be on stage without actually singing your heart out! I leave the defining to folk like you… intellectuals, writers, explorers and inquisitive people looking for certainty. I think ‘Analysis' leads to stricter borders and I have come to believe rigid rules close down creative possibilities. Everyone will regard a mime based on their own life’s experience. It doesn’t matter… as I heard the character Frank say on ’Shameless' a decade or so ago: “opinions are like arseholes. Everybody’s got one, and they all stink.”
Get aboard the Good Ship Cliché. We’re going in.
6 Mime Myths Busted
1. Mimes Can’t Talk
“You’re just not cut out to be a mime”
“Was it something I said?”
There are So. Many. Puns. And they’re all genuinely fabulous. Most of them are about the fact that mimes can’t speak.
Sorry folks. Talking is totally allowed. You don’t stop being a mime because you open your gob.
The nuance is that mime isn’t about communicating with your mouthpiece. We get so stuck on words, but words are an abstraction of thought and thought is an abstraction of our internal world*. Mimes prefer to kneecap the middle man and just show you the internal world in the simplest (most honest?) way possible.
As Les says in the quote above, “[mime is] the most truthful you can be on stage without actually singing your heart out!“ which I’m sure would transgress many health and safety regulations.
We’ve got a bunch of great Mime Quotes from some of those mainstream peoples you might have heard of if you fancy reading more about this.
So, there you have it. Sing, dance, laugh, shout, natter, mumble and cry - and don’t you let anyone tell you that you’re not a mime.
2. Mimes Wear White Face
So we have a lot of culprits for this one. Mime sprung up independently in many cultural traditions around the world. Many traditions used masks from Japanese Noh around the 14th Century, the Greeks from the 5th BCE and the Italians in the 16th to name a few.
Imagine you’re behind a heavy mask and you’re trying to show someone veeeeeeery far away just how sad you are? Exaggeration? Precision? Slow Mo? Gold star for you. This is the genesis of mime.
The white face is thought to have been introduced around 400 BCE and is credited to the semi-legendary Athenian king Theseus, but that was back in the day when the monarch just took the credit for pretty much everything until their epicness oozed out their eyeballs.
Whomever the credit sticks on, painted white face is thought to be introduced through a series of dances as a precursor to pantomime which was a precursor to... this, that, and the other - you get the idea.
I want to be wary of glorifying the Ancient Greeks here as this habit is potentially just a bad imperialistic hangover. Body painting in Africa has been dated back over 10,000 years being used in ritual and dance. There were land trade routes between Thebes and the Ancient Egyptians so the winner of Origin Wars might still be unclear.
3. Mime’s Have Stripey Shirts...
...and waistcoats, big buttons, white gloves and dance shoes.
Oh Bip. Ohhhhhh Bip.
Marcel Marceau created a character, Bip, which he almost exclusively used through the latter part of his career.