MTP 1984-1992

Feature in Issue 4-4 | Winter 1992

Since 1988, Mime Theatre Project has travelled to five continents with its seven touring productions, visiting some places more than once. Since 1989, more and more of our work has been abroad, where in common with other companies we found we could earn more and seemingly be better appreciated than in the UK. Why this should be the case is another discussion in itself.

So how did this situation arise?

The answer is because of a combination of ambition and circumstance. Every company is only the sum total of its members – those people CARE about their work, WANT people to see it, and can PLAN for some time ahead. For example, in January 1989 MTP decided to send me to Australia for three months in a gamble that the cost of going would ultimately be an investment in the future, and so it proved with a six-month commercial tour (including New Zealand) in 1990. This is very different from being involved in a tour arranged via the British Council, or being invited by a Festival Director, both of which are perhaps more usual ways of travelling, and involve no risk to the company.

It is encouraging to note that in fact, where MTP has actually taken the trouble to travel and meet promoters in whatever country, we have never failed to return at a later date to perform. There is no substitute for meeting potential bookers face to face.

One element we feel we must comment on from our experience of being abroad is the old question of ‘mime’ – the word. We have unquestionably suffered in our foreign touring by having the word in our company name. In fact during the last two years we have always travelled simply as ‘MTP’ without explanation of the initials, or in the case of Japan (where we were told that the word had ‘dark and negative connotations’!) simply as Gavin Robertson and Andrew Dawson, and not as ‘a company’ at all! Ultimately, throughout the debate, no matter what performers on the inside think, you are the victim of everybody else’s preconceptions – including the public you are trying to reach in your publicity. A word in any language is defined by its use by the general populace in any given context (witness the change in meaning of the word ‘gay’ for example). Mime has connotations of silence, white faces and all the rest. That much is irrefutable. So unless you perform in that style, DON’T use the word! Having in the past carried the mime banner and done our share of trying to re-educate people, we feel that frankly, there is little point! In the UK, we believe the word is actually less of a problem, and that a certain amount of re-education has been successful. When abroad, however, it is useful to remember that in countries where your publicity (or company name!) is open to interpretation by its translation into another language, misunderstanding is more likely than accuracy!

Finally then … Why has MTP stopped producing work?

There is no one reason, but a combination of many. We would like to say that foremost we have NOT suffered from the theatre equivalent of ‘musical differences’ – we could not be more in agreement. Essentially we feel that we have accomplished what we intended to do as a company. The work itself has changed and grown from show to show; we have experienced small-scale touring, middle-scale touring, foreign touring, sell-outs in the West End, performances in two-thousand seater concert halls, TV performances and interviews, redirected our work onto other actors, AND above all, had control over everything from print design, copy and merchandise, to artistic policy, finance, and forward planning.

It would be too easy to keep going now that we understand what we do and how we do it. Even becoming a bigger company is not, for us, an end in itself. There is perhaps a certain relish in once accomplishing something, to smash it all up and see what happens next! Andrew and I will perform again – perhaps together, but absolutely NOT as Mime Theatre Project. In the short term, Andrew will continue his study of the Feldenkrais Method, whilst I seem to be scriptwriting corporate videos. Thunderbirds F.A.B. - The Next Generation (performed by Paul Kent and Wayne Forrester) continues its UK tour until Easter 1993.

Finally then, we would like, through these pages, to thank everyone who has supported us and our work.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 4-4
p. 5