This review was originally written for the Londonist
The piece begins with wheels moving in shadowy darkness, the human figures powering them barely visible. As the stage is lit, a machine is revealed – a central wheel surrounded by smaller cogs and linked with thick swinging ropes. Four people work the wheels, ropes and cogs, moving systematically and following orders that flow from a loudspeaker.
As they repeat the routine of turning the wheel (think of a huge wooden hamster wheel), each worker’s character is slowly revealed. Each has their own style of working and their own work call. From nowhere, a fifth person is thrown into the equation and the rest of the piece shows how their routine gradually unravels as their individual needs and fears become more pronounced.
Ockham’s Razor explain that they wanted to “make a show that sprang from the sweat, grind, pain and sheer difficulty of aerial…we wanted to tell a story that was inherent with our labour. Essentially we wanted to make a piece about work”.
The Mill grinds slowly through its story. It’s noisy, full of grunts, moans and yelps. This show is part of the ongoing London International Mime Festival but don’t think that mime is silent. It’s about communicating in a very physical way but not about suppressing the voice. This piece echoes with the performers’ groans and is accompanied by sounds that move through creaking clunks to more melodic, swinging violin.
There are some joyful moments – the worker who playfully tightrope walks along the rope while he labours; the swooping swinging of their dreams during a designated rest period; and one of the final scenes when they spin wildly in the machine like it’s a ferris wheel at a fairground. But the performance is slow-going and repetitive and it feels as if we don’t get to see what the performers are really capable of. They seem restricted – and they are, by their work and the machine and an unseen boss – but it’s a little frustrating for an audience that waits for some aerial marvels that never quite arrive.
The London International Mime Festival continues – find out what’s on at www.mimefest.co.uk