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Digital Programme: This & That (MimeLondon)

This & That performance image of shadow play

Find out more about the production and the creative team behind it in our digital programme. 


Welcome to the Barbican and thank you for joining us for our new season. To mark the start of a new year, we look back and also celebrate new beginnings. 

For over twenty years, we have presented breathtaking and extraordinary shows in collaboration with the ground-breaking London International Mime Festival. The festival has now ended but we’re delighted to be working again with Helen Lannaghan and Joseph Seelig, the festival’s directors, as they find new ways for us to connect audiences with companies across the world who specialise in visual storytelling. We are delighted to present four exciting international productions in The Pit between 23 January and 17 February, as part of MimeLondon (the new season in which Helen and Joseph will curate an enticing programme in collaboration with several partner venues).

This year, we welcome back two French companies. Les Antliaclastes’ Ambergris is a darkly comic adaptation of Pinocchio set in the belly of a whale and told through a mesmerising blend of puppetry, music and machines. Next, the delightful duo Stereoptik return with a new mini-spectacle, Antechamber, a transformative love story created live on stage through sketching, painting, music and film. 

This is followed by two companies making their Barbican debuts this year. From Spain, El Patio Teatro use hand-crafted anatomical objects to unravel the mysteries of what makes us human, in Entrañas (or, as we might say, Insides!) Finally, award-winning experimental American theatre-makers Phil Soltanoff and Steven Wendt invite us into a world of wonder with This & That, a playground of live performance mixing abstract video projection, music and enchanting hand shadow puppetry. 

We hope you enjoy your visit, whether you are choosing just one show or coming back for more than one of these intricate and spellbinding contemporary performances.

Toni Racklin, Barbican Head of Theatre & Dance


We began very humbly. There was no master plan. Steven and I took some old sound and video equipment that was lying around in storage and put it in my studio in Hoboken New Jersey. Then we played with the stuff. And continued playing. We invited some people to come and see us play and they invited us to their theatres. And now we find ourselves here. Our ambition has always been to create simple, human, poetic, fact-driven theatre: visual theatre that doesn’t need any words. We’re thrilled that we can now share that vision with an audience at the Barbican.

Phil Soltanoff and Steven Wendt


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About the performance

THAT uses light and video technology as abstract puppetry.

THIS investigates hand shadows.

THAT paints with light and imagines the universe.

THIS is about the people in it, their romantic sense of longing, loss and alienation.

THAT uses cameras, projectors and tripods that come to life;

zooming in and out, manoeuvring visual feedback loops, dissolving images together

and apart – creating an abstract video puppetry right in front of our eyes.

THIS tells stories about loss and love. A cowboy sleeps under the stars, a family puts their child to sleep for the night, a crooner serenades his lover, a jazz pianist fantasises while he plays.

THAT is inspired by Basil Twist’s Symphony Fantastique.

THIS brings to life characters inspired by the sculptures of Henri Moore.

A process of discovery

We are committed to discovering what we don’t yet know about something. To that end, we engage in extended research and development. Each rehearsal starts from a blank page (metaphorically speaking). We investigate something – an object, process or convention – without knowing where we are going or where we will end up. We have the faith and confidence that we will stumble upon something interesting along the way. 

We’re swimming in technology in our daily lives. Consequently, we use technology to build our work. We don’t, however, use the technology in the way it was intended. For example, we might attach a homemade contact mic to a tensor lamp. The lamp then transforms from a light source to something musical – and something mysterious.

We are committed to discovering and using what we call the ‘facts’ in the space. We are not trying to hide the truth of any object, process or space. We acknowledge their truth. And by doing so, we explore the honest transformations possible when we create work by juxtaposing the facts as they are.

We avoid slickness by rediscovering the poetry in simple objects.

We are interested in creating new forms by combining and juxtaposing familiar forms.

We believe in what John Cage calls ‘purposeful purposelessness’. Our work does not have to be useful politically or socially – just playful and naive; curious and full of wonder. Useless art is very useful.

Phil Soltanoff and Steven Wendt


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