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

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