Lina Johansson chats to Emma Clarendon about Mimbre’s latest show To Untouch which will be performed as part of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
Hi Lina, could you tell me more about Mimbre as a company?
Mimbre is a female-led company creating nuanced, breath taking and highly skilled acrobatic theatre. We use circus and dance innovatively as a physical language to illuminate human connections and promote a positive image of women, create unexpected moments in unusual spaces and reclaim beauty within the urban environment. As well as our own productions touring across UK and Europe, we regularly collaborate working commissions to bring circus to fresh and surprising settings, including work created with and for Dior, Royal Shakespeare Company, English National Opera, BBC and National Centre for Circus Arts.
How did the idea for the company come about?
Me, Silvia Fratelli and Emma Norin set up the company a whopping 20 years ago after meeting at circus school, we then went into further training together at a centre in Cuba. As well as enjoying working together we wanted to challenge the stereotypical images in dance and acro-balance of strong men lifting small women – an image we all thought would
be outdated by now… We started performing in lots of different settings – any opportunity that was offered really. But the atmosphere of outdoor arts and festivals won our hearts and ‘non-typical’ performance settings are still what a lot of our performances and tours are created towards.
What can audiences expect from your show To Untouch?
To Untouch is an exploration, dedication and homage to physical touch and how much we miss it. It is such a strange situation to deal with when something that is so essential to our work, and also to us as humans, is now so loaded with fear and risk. In both humorous and emotional ways the performers will express their contrasting feelings about this and explore new and different ways of keeping physical connections and complicity between each other, when the impulse of direct physical touch has to be restrained. We are creating this show specifically for the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, so it is responsive and fresh to the situation we are living in right now, to the current rules, recommendations and perceptions.
How have you found as a company adapting to this new normal world that we are living in particularly in creating shows?
We were given the chance to create a short film; The Sofa Dance as part of Filmed in Lockdown – a series of new works commissioned for Culture in Quarantine by Arts Council England and BBC Arts. This was created over zoom, emails and WhatsApp with 30 acrobats and dancers filming themselves at home in their sofas, physicalising the shared exhaustion, frustration and complications of living and creating within drastically limited space.
Me and film-maker Arthur Le Fol then distilled hours of material down into a five-minute short film, The Sofa Dance, which you can catch on BBC iPlayer or on Youtube. The reception of the film has been great, and I really think it catches a moment in time, but I would really prefer to not call it the new normal. While we have learned a lot from the last few months in how to keep going digitally whatever the scenarios (we moved our weekly youth programme classes and a summer holiday project online as well as running daily fitness and skill classes for our performers), it is still not a satisfactory replacement of the magic that happens when creating and performing in person.
What are you most looking forward to about bringing ‘To Untouch’ to the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival? To be in front of a live audience again! I don’t mind how far away or distanced they are from
each other, just the feeling of that direct, live connection!
How would you describe the show as a whole? Fresh, honest, responsive, humorous and touching (in the emotional meaning of the word).
By Emma Clarendon
To find out more about Mimbre click here.The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival runs from the 28th August until the 12th September.