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Sunday, 29 May 2016


The performance of mime originated in Ancient Greece; the name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus, although performances were not necessarily silent.

The first recorded mime was Telestēs in the play Seven Against Thebes, which was produced by Aeschylus in 467 BC. Tragic mime was developed by Puladēs of Kilikia; comic mime was developed by Bathullos of Alexandria.

In Ancient Rome mime became a spoken form of popular, farcical drama with music, which was played without masks.

Masked theatrical troupe around an aulos player (mosaic from the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii)

The popular mimes, which all but drove other forms of spoken drama from the stage under the Roman Empire, were sub-literary, unmetrical, and largely impromptu, with dialogue in prose which the chief actor was free to cut or expand at will.

The Roman tradition of mime was brought to Britain during the Roman occupation.

The distinctive costume of the Roman mime-player was a hood which could be drawn over the head or thrown back, a patchwork jacket, tights, and the phallus; the head was shaven and the feet bare.

The Roman tradition of mime was brought to Britain during the Roman occupation.

The sordid themes and startling indecency of the language, action, and near-nudity of the actors and actresses, meant that there was an outcry against the entertainment as the Roman empire became Christianized. In the fifth century the Church excommunicated all performers in Roman mime for burlesquing the sacraments and for their indecency.

In Medieval Europe, early forms of mime such as mummer plays and later dumbshows evolved

The work of Jean Deburau (1796-1846), which culminated in the famous mime-play L'Enfant prodigue, popularized mime in France in the 19th century and the vogue for it spread to Britain.

Mimes Jean Soubeyran and Brigitte Soubeyran in 1950.By Ronald - Inge Worringen, Cologne, Wikipedia Commons
Silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton learned the craft of mime in the theatre, but through film, they would have a profound influence on mimes working in live theatre decades after their deaths. Indeed, Chaplin may be the most well-documented mime in history.

Marcel Marceau (March 22, 1923 – September 22, 2007) was a French mime. He first used mime during World War II to keep Jewish children quiet while he helped them escape from occupied France to neutral Switzerland

Marceau was most famous for his stage persona as "Bip the Clown," which he first played at the Théâtre de Poche in Paris in 1947. In his appearance he wore a striped pullover and a battered, beflowered silk opera hat. The outfit signified life's fragility and Bip became his alter ego, just as the "Little Tramp" became Charlie Chaplin's. Marceau referred to mime as the "art of silence," and he performed professionally worldwide for over 60 years. He was said to be single-handedly responsible for reviving the art of mime after World War II.

Marceau as Bip the Clown in 1974

In late 1968 David Bowie formed his own mime troupe, Turquoise, later renamed Feathers. The short lived group recited poetry and played some folk songs interspersed with mime routines on a meager circuit of university halls and folk clubs.

When the comedian Robin Williams was first starting out, he performed as a mime outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art to make money.

Between the years of 1995 and 2003 the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia hired mimes to ridicule traffic violators in the streets in an effort to reduce chaotic driving. Traffic fatalities decreased 50% as a result.

Source Comptons Encyclopedia

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