Silence = Life

John Kelly Represents in Mime


Kelly is largely self-trained, but gets what he needs to keep following the muse. In 1996, he went to Paris to study mime at the Théâtre d'Ange Fou, set up by Etienne Decroux, the man who played the barker in Children of Paradise. Decroux and Barrault developed what they called corporeal mime. Kelly compares it to method acting, as opposed to, say, Marcel Marceau's illusionistic mime. Kelly remembers seeing Marceau on television as a kid. "Didn't blow me away." So he went to study at Decroux's theater on a grant from the French government, only to learn that the theater had moved to London. He found some other teachers, but suggests modestly that what he's doing as Baptiste may be "mimicry."

The piece had a trapeze in it until last spring, when Kelly fell in rehearsal, fracturing two vertebrae in his neck. Multiple fractures, in fact. But no nerve damage. So the trapeze is gone, but ironically enough for a piece about a silent performer, there is a great deal of talking. At least for a Kelly piece. It is just a further expansion of his range.

Kelly as a Pierrot: He has always explored parts of himself men are not encouraged to explore.
photo: John Dugdale
Kelly as a Pierrot: He has always explored parts of himself men are not encouraged to explore.

Kelly explains: "This piece is about the contrast between giving yourself over to work or giving yourself over to a life—which could include love. And does it have to be one or the other? Can't it be both?"

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