Shaping up to demands of the audience

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 December, 1995, 12:00am

FORGET the sedate rhythms of Marcel Marceau. When the mime is performed by Hanoch Rosenn, expect a fast-moving, clever and entertaining act.

He can be showing the stages of human development from monkey through to artist, car driver - and back to monkey again; or good-humouredly, but without condescension, persuading children to mime a tennis game.

He can be a baby with a packet of crisps; or a child still in the womb, waking up and preparing for birth, and kicking and punching his way out. When the child does emerge wide-eyed and ready for the world, he is confronted by a bureaucrat handing him a national insurance number, medical insurance certificate and passport. He puts his head back in, closes the door behind him and returns to foetal position.

But whatever he portrays, this Paris-trained Israeli is up-to-date and in tune with his audience, whatever its age.

Of course, he also has the skills of the classical mime artist - the prehensile face muscles, the mobility of body and wrists and, most important, the art of communicating unfailingly with his audience.

And, although this is essentially a one-man show, some of the best sketches are those where he invites members of the audience on stage with him.

The three 40-somethings he had join him in an imagined motorbike rally, at the Jewish Arts Festival, can rarely have enjoyed themselves more hugely.

Clips of film and cartoons keep the audience laughing during his costume changes. One telling cartoon answers the question: 'Why did you become a mime?' It portrays him as an opera singer, struggling not to sound like a drunk with a karaoke machine.

But for all the fast-paced humour, the 34-year-old is also sensitive enough to portray emotion without sentimentality.

The lonely statue who comes to life seeking friendship, but merely succeeds in scaring people away, is a creature whose plight you can feel.

And in the extraordinary Flowers in Love, Rosenn blacks out his body and lets his hands and arms perform a dance of flower-stem courtship, tenderness and withering away. The audience ends up empathising with the plants. This is the work of a top-flight artist.

Just one disappointment: this reviewer was so impressed he wanted to come back with the family for Rosenn's special performance for children - it was sold out.

Hanoch Rosenn, Entertainment Without Words; Jewish Community Centre, 1 Robinson Place; November 26