London International Mime Festival Review: The Cardinals

Written for The Stage

Three Cardinals come together in prayer as their stage manager intones “All Cardinals to the stage please, this is the five-minute call”. They are about to embark on a retelling of the Christian faith on a stage intended for puppets not people. It is a silly but touching moment with this religious act mirroring secular pre-theatrical rituals, just as their faith stands in direct counterpoint to the theatrical rule of make-believe.

Performed with an endearing focus and seriousness, Stan’s Cafe’s The Cardinals is certainly as zealous as any evangelical endeavour. Infused with imagery that nods to religious painting and Monty Python, it is irreverent but knowledgeable and visually delicious. A ‘play-within-a-play’, The Cardinals is full of backstage in-jokes that keep theatre followers giggling while the effort involved in such a prop-heavy show is a sweet reminder of how much work belief takes.

But for all its mischievousness – or perhaps because of it – it goes on for too long and cannot fully explain its point. Its cardinal sin is that it doesn’t go anywhere – simply repeating its message of satirical comedy instead of building on the potentially fascinating interplay between theatrical and spiritual endeavour that marks their initial moment of prayer.

Playing AE Harris Building Birming, January 29-February 2

The Best Of The Rest 2010

We all know the big un’s to watch out for in the first few months of 2010; Red, currently running at the Donmar Warehouse, the West End transfers of Enron and Jerusalem, Peter Brook at The Barbican which also houses the eclectic Bite Season for 2010 and work by the legendary Pina Bausch, Trilogy at The BAC and of course the London International Mime Festival.

But what about the smaller venues – not just the BAC’s or The Riverside Studios’ who consistently punch above their weight, but the truly off-piste theatres – The Blue Elephant Theatre, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern and The Cock Tavern to name but a few.  Unlike the big theatres these small houses can only programme up to 3-6 months so no need to book miles in advance – these are things you can see in the very near future so check your pre-planned nature at the door and get a little trigger happy.

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