“I am passionate about it because it is for everyone and everyone can do it. One does not need to have a special talent to be good at it. The only thing that is required is work”
Guillaume Pigé talks to LIMF about what attracted him to corporeal mime
Originally from France, Guillaume Pigé has been living in London for the past 12 years. He is the artistic director of Theatre Re, whose last two productions, BIRTH and The Nature of Forgetting, have been co-commissioned by LIMF and tour internationally. He is an associate teacher at R.A.D.A, Head of Movement at Fourth Monkey Actor Training, and is regularly invited to give workshops in the UK and internationally.
Where, when and how did your interest in corporeal mime begin? Where did you train and how long did it take to learn?
Back in 2005, I met Daniel Stein, actor, director, mime and also a former student of Etienne Decroux. He invited me to come and train with him for three weeks at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, California. The workshop was about devising new material for theatre and it was a real eye opener for me. Suddenly, being an actor was not just about interpreting someone else’s words but about being a poet. Following Daniel’s advice, I went on to train with Dean Fogal, also a former student of Decroux, in Vancouver for one year. Still following his advice, I then went to train for three years at the International School of Corporeal Mime in London under the direction of the last assistants of Etienne Decroux, Corinne Soum and Steven Wasson. This is where I really started to become a mime. I also took several workshops with Thomas Leabhart, also a former assistant of Decroux during his occasional visits to Europe. But the training never stops… If it takes ten years to make an actors, it takes a lifetime to make a mime.
Can you explain what corporeal mime is for people who don’t know and how is this different from traditional mime – why are you so passionate about it?
To me mime is about creating metaphors. It is about making the portrait of something, an idea, an emotion or a state of mind, with something else, an object, the body or even the voice. So corporeal mime is about making the portrait of something with the body (corporeal). I am passionate about it because it is for everyone and everyone can do it. One does not need to have a special talent to be good at it. The only thing that is required is work.
In the same way that there was no audition to join the Decroux’s school in Paris back in the days, I did not have to audition to train at any of the schools where I trained. I was welcomed. The hard thing is not to enter but it is to stay. I like that.
Are there many other people teaching and performing corporeal mime?
Yes and no. Steven Wasson and Corinne Soum used to be based in London and have now moved to Wisconsin in the USA and are teaching as part of the White Church Theatre Project. Thomas Leabhart, teaches at Pomona College in California and regularly comes to France to deliver workshops. Yvan Bacciochi, a former student from Decroux, teaches in Paris. Sophie Kasser and Stephane Levy teach in Barcelona at Moveo, while Kentaro Suyama and Tania Coke have just opened a new space The Flying Carpet Factory in Japan.
Your 5-day intensive courses at LIMF are always very popular – who are they aimed at and what kinds of people do you attract?
These intensive courses are primarily aimed at professional and semi-professional actors, dancers and performers, but it often also attracts other artists from different disciplines such as painters, architects, sculptors and even writers.
Have you ever cast anyone in your shows from these workshops?
Yes, and it is usually how I meet future collaborators. These regular workshops as part of LIMF have become a very important part of the company’s life. It also provides regular opportunities for those who want to further their training in corporeal mime.
You always seem super-busy – how has 2019 been for you since you opened Birth at LIMF last January? Where have you performed and what kind of reaction has the work had?
Looking back, 2019 has been quite an exceptional year! After opening BIRTH, we went straight back on tour with The Nature of Forgetting and performed in Seoul, Hong Kong as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, New York at the prestigious New Victory Theatre, Taiwan, Mexico as part of the Cerventino Festival and we are just back from a 3-week tour across the Midwest of the US. We also took BIRTH to the Latitude Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the summer.
We love greeting the audience as they come out of the theatre and it is quite extraordinary to see how everyone responds to the work regardless of where they are from. People seem to be touched in a very deep and intuitive way and we feel very grateful for that.
What have you got planned for 2020 – are you already working on a new show?
2020 promises to be a very exciting year as well! We will be touring BIRTH across the UK and all the touring dates will be revealed in the New Year. The international tour of The Nature of Forgetting will continue, and the dates will be announced very soon too! We will also be developing a new project and keep delivering workshops in the UK and abroad.
Can you tell us about your creation process – what are the stages and how long do you allow?
It takes time and most of it relies on gathering the right team for each project. As we start from nothing, or not much, we tend to stay in the dark for a very long time and it takes a lot of trust to keep moving forward: trust in each other, trust in the material and trust in the fact that eventually we will arrive somewhere.
Depending on the subject matter that we are exploring we try to engage with various experts from different fields such as public health, philosophy and science. We also engage with as many people as possible during the development process, so we regularly open the doors of our rehearsal room to share our progress and receive feedback.
Is it true you are also a magician – what’s your specialism? Do you regard this as something quite separate, or do you feel it’s in some way connected with corporeal mime?
Yes, I am! I do close-up magic and cards is my speciality. I do not necessarily connect magic with corporeal mime, but I definitely connect it with the work of Theatre Re, and I think that a Theatre Re show is like a good magic trick. There is a sense of mystery at the core of the work. Technique is important but it should not be seen. It is both entertaining and thought provoking. It works visually and can include words, but it is often better without. It does not always need a story. It needs to be specific, articulated, generous, playful and alive. It does not take much for it to all go wrong but when it works it’s magic.
Guillaume Pigé is teaching a 5-day intensive corporeal mime workshop from Mon 13 – Fri 17 January at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of LIMF2020. More details here >