The mime of the times ― Marceau speaks upThe noise hushes to a heavy silence of expectation. Almost 100 students sit on the floor of a basement auditorium at Dankook University, Hannam-dong. All eyes are on one man.
He is lithe, his breath exact, his movements poetic. He first takes off his jacket. Eventually, he removes his shoes. In that stillness, against a black background, without any props, Marcel Marceau creates wind, jealousy, revolution, youth and death. All it takes are the movements of his body, from the curve of his hands to the straightness in his shoulder to the quick lift of a heel.
Mr. Marceau, the world’s greatest mime, is in Korea for a lecture at Dankook University and performances at the Hanjeon Artspool Center tonight and tomorrow. The show will include recent works as well as classics.
Shortly before arriving in Korea Saturday, he toured the United States in an act billed as a farewell tour. Mr. Marceau is 80 years old, he travels and performs extensively and exhaustively, and he has no understudy. So Mr. Marceau is bidding farewell, but only to his one-man show. After the tour, Mr. Marceau will be concentrating on the Marcel Marceau Mime Company.
The 2003 world tour is the closing of a chapter, but not the end of the book. Mr. Marceau has been paving the way for other great mimes. “Literature must live for art to become a legacy,” Mr. Marceau says. But it is artists like himself who inspire others, just as Etienne Decroux, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton once inspired him.
In 1946 Mr. Marceau won the attention of Etienne Decroux, the father of modern mime. The first thing the student learned was how to walk in place, an action that to modern eyes looks like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.
Shortly after becoming Mr. Decroux’s student, Mr. Marceau created Bip, a clown with a battered opera hat, who has become as synonymous with Mr. Marceau as the Little Tramp is with Chaplin.
On stage, Mr. Marceau may be the genius of silence. But offstage, he can talk ceaselessly about mime.
“Miming is showing the unseen,” he says. After decades of miming, the pantomimes are familiar to him. Some of the movements have names born out of techniques that Mr. Marceau has developed, and many would say, perfected.
Mr. Marceau also talks about the importance of history. “If you have no interest in history, your future will be weak,” he says. “We have to know our roots.” Through Mr. Marceau’s performances and school, countless people now include Mr. Marceau as part of their roots.
Lee Tai-kun, a professor of mime at Dankook University, is one of them. Mr. Lee, who studied at the Marcel Marceau Mime Company from 1995 to 1998, says, “It gives me strength to know that someone like Marceau is evangelizing this art.”
by Joe Yong-hee
The Friday performance starts at 7:30 p.m., the Saturday show at 7 p.m. Tickets cost 20,000-80,000 won. For more information, see the Web site www.seoularts.com.