>A PERFECT LOVE AFFAIR by Mime Unlimited

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 14 feb 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: cairnhill arts centre
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Valentine's Day and I was stuck without a date. My Significant Other was unavailable and I was looking ahead at a night home alone with the kittens. Then Tina Sergeant, the Great Goddess of Love, gave me a ring and asked me to come and watch Mime Unlimited's latest offering and I thought, well, I've always admired her work so why not?

What can I say? I fell in love with A PERFECT LOVE AFFAIR.

It got a little heavy at times. The production was essentially taking a collection of poet Michael Corbidge's work from across a series of his anthologies, structuring them to tell the story of love in eight stages (from First Encounter to the Chase; from Honeymoon to the Cooling Off) and then performing them in a blend of mime, poetry recital, monologue and Indian dance. The poetry recitals were particularly hard to follow, for no other reason than that poetry readings usually are. They sweep you away on words and sounds and dreams and your mind wanders, which, I suppose, is in a way the very effect they are trying to achieve. You hear Fanny Kee and Andy Mowatt and the sounds of their voices are so rich and expressive (what I would call Storytellers' Voices); they take you by the hand and lead you on a journey of daydream. And so you lose your grounding in the actual words sometimes and for those of us who need concrete and tangible structures and meanings and narratives, it can all get a little fuzzy (but nice fuzzy). Still, I applaud the company for making the audience work hard and really concentrate on the words and not taking the easy way out and providing cheap gimmicks to add "flash" to the poems. Listening is a lost art.

>>'They sweep you away on words and sounds and dreams and your mind wanders'

Some of his poems, though, did indeed have strong narrative elements beyond the musing and were performed more as monologues or duologues. Perhaps it is because Corbidge is an actor as well as a poet that some of his pieces lent themselves so readily to being performed and explored visually. Besides "acting" from Kee and Mowatt, some of the readings were also intertwined with powerful traditional Indian dance performances by Muralitharan Pillai and Jaynthi Siva. The two represented the ideal Man and the ideal Woman, both strong and sensual, both childlike and flirtatious. Ideas of masculinity and femininity were a blur, each had elements of the other and each was so deeply in love and in play with the other that the sight was a joy to behold.

And for those who are inclined in a different way, the production spoke too of the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. In the poems, desire was sometimes not only a woman's for a man, but also a man's for another man.

Director Sergeant said that when A PERFECT LOVE AFFAIR was first conceived, it was not an easy task selecting, editing and structuring the poems together with Corbidge. Trying to achieve a balance between the diverse elements was difficult. The ebb and flow of all the different performance styles and different perspectives of love had to create a dreamscape which we could get totally lost within - so easy in the intimate space of the atrium, with the beautifully zen soft-lighting, the bales of white cloth draping down from the upper floors, the use of a live percussionist, rose petals falling from above and that gorgeous floral scent wafting in the air (which I later found out was just insect repellent!) - but still identify with through touchstones of feeling and mood even if we were occasionally unaware of specific meanings and significances (in the dance, mime and poetry).

A strong cast and high production qualities made this attempt a success. It is also the company's credit that the performance was kept to an hour before it became too unwieldy.

As with Love, sometimes, it is the intensity of the moment that counts rather than how long it lasts.